Blog tour: The writing process

Pete Armetta is a writer whose work I love. I love his thoughts and I love how he expresses them, whether it’s through poetry, short stories, essays or writingquillfiction. Yes, he is that versatile, that able, that talented. I ‘met’ him here, on WordPress; and from the very first moment I read one of his posts I became a fan. And a follower.

Here’s your chance to do the same.

A couple of nights ago he invited me to participate in The Writing Process blog tour. He’d been invited by a friend and fellow blogger. Read what he shared, with just one click.

Some info I knew, some I didn’t. But none of it surprised me. Because along with being a terrific writer, he is committed and passionate and determined.

The Writing Process:

1. What are you working on?

A bit of background, first. My mother used to tell me as far back as when I was 11 or 12 years old, I routinely re-wrote (and re-thought) ads I saw in magazines. So I suppose it wasn’t ‘news’ when I told my parents, at age 15, I wanted to work in advertising.

And it is what I ended up doing. First as a copywriter, then as a creative director — for the Montreal and Toronto offices of some of the world’s biggest

ad agency networks. In those days I would have written ads and TV and radio commercials and billboards and taglines and headlines and direct mail packages and brochures and letters and collateral material and press releases and even the odd speech for clients and, later on, myself.

After a long and interesting career, in 2009 I was ready to give up full-time work for the freedom of freelance. There were other things (volunteering at a hospital once a week, traveling and writing a book) I wanted to do as well; and agency life is too demanding to leave room for other endeavours.

I still have clients who come to me for ‘advertising’, but these days everyone is digital crazy and most of my work is either writing websites, blogs, tweets or other social media status updates and pages — although I also produce and write videos for them occasionally, as well. So that’s what my ‘day job’ mostly consists of; and in my ‘spare’ time I write my own blog. I’m also writing some articles, on a variety of topics from travel to finances to aging, I’d like to see published and I’m writing a book — a memoir, I guess you could call it — although it concentrates on a specific period of time — when my mother’s health was failing pretty rapidly and I cared for her. Little did I know at the outset of our adventure I’d benefit from the experience every bit as much as she did.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I think every writer, every human in fact, brings different experiences and different opinions, perspectives and feelings to everything we do — whether it’s life in general, a recipe, parenting, or writing a commercial or a book or a movie script or a blog. We also each have different writing styles and our own, unique voice. So even if we were all given the exact same assignment, everyone’s ‘rendition’ would be different.

A perfect example are the WordPress Challenges and Daily Prompts. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried any of them, but I have — quite regularly, in fact. And what I enjoy the most is reading them. Because while dozens and dozens and dozens of us may choose to write about the same topic, no two blogs ever turn out even remotely the same. For all the reasons I mentioned before. And, because we all bring different ideas and interpretations. We bring ‘ourselves’, in other words, in all our glory and neuroses and personalities.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Ahhhhhhhh … where should I start? I’ve gotta tell you, I really love the challenges of working in the ad industry.

One day you can be writing about soap, the next mortgages and the one after that, fly fishing. Very often we know little, if anything, about the products and services we get hired to ‘sell’ to consumers, so there is always a pretty steep learning curve ahead of us. The real issue being, the deadlines are absolutely brutal and there’s so much to do in so little time — like getting up to speed on carburetors or processed cheese or ETFs or whatever in mere hours, brainstorming with your art director partner and coming up with a bunch of great ideas in mere hours and then actually doing the work in time for presentations — which are usually mere days away.

Then there’s the variety. You’re never bored because each new day brings an entirely new (and different) project. And each ‘brand’ has its own voice, its own personality. And it’s our job to make sure everything we do is done in the right ‘tone’ for the brand. One minute we’re being very serious, the next funny, the next instructive, the next empathetic and on it goes.

Besides, it gives me a chance to learn at least a little bit about so many different industries and products and, especially, humans — and what makes them tick. Because one thing’s for sure: You can’t write persuasive copy if you don’t understand how your target audience might react. Perfect for someone like me, who’s curious about just about everything.

Now that I’m freelancing, I have a whole new set of challenges, which relates to the kind of work I’m getting. It’s no longer just advertising. I’ve written white papers, for example, which most clients would never get their agency partners to do. And I just finished a fascinating project. I was hired, by a Cancer Cares Ontario Research Chair at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario to edit (and re-write where and when necessary) a 57-page book that’s the result of a research study he did on community-based palliative care. Something totally new and different for me and I just loved doing it.

As for my own work, my blog, the articles and my book, what can I say? I love telling stories. I love sharing my ideas and my thoughts and my hopes and dreams and fears. I love putting words together. I love making sentences. I love editing and crafting and polishing and, dare I say, even re-writing. When I write I am always calm and peaceful. When the words are flowing and the work is going really well I get lost. I lose track of time. It could be morning, it could be night, it could be the middle of the night. I am that absorbed, that involved. That content.

Frankly, the way I feel right now, writing this.

4. How does your writing process work?

Discipline is definitely involved, at least for me. There are times you’re just not in the mood, not inspired. And somehow, you just have to get it up to do it, like it or not. Especially when it’s client work. Deadlines and delivery dates do not change. Period.

Thankfully it’s not often I don’t feel like writing. But there are definitely times the words just don’t come. Experience has taught me not to panic. I walk away. I shut down the computer and do something else. Everybody’s brain needs a rest and some re-charging from time to time. In my youth moments like this would throw me into a complete tizzy.

“What if that’s it?” I’d wonder. Which was enough to give me chills and sweaty palms. Not to mention palpitations. Holy Shit!

Now I know if I relax and take a break all will be well. Forget about it for a few hours or a day or two — depending on what the timelines are. It’s a great time to catch up on my reading. And nothing inspires me like a good book — someone else’s story.

As for my “process”, it depends what I’m writing. If it’s advertising I always start with a brief. The client and/or the agency account/planning teams are expected to write a brief — which, in one or two pages, basically tells us everything we need to know about the client, the brand, the product or service, the strategy and the objectives and the target audience. It gives us the playground. I’m a stickler for good briefs. So if you’re a suit or a client and want to hire me to do some work for you, please do not just give me a list. Briefs are meant to inspire and the best ones do. And they result in great work.

But whether it’s business or personal I’m not one of those writers who can just spit out all their thoughts and worry about perfecting later. I wish I could do that, but I can’t. Stream of consciousness doesn’t work for me. I must craft as I go. It has to ‘sound’ right to me before I can move on. And I do always read my work out loud, to myself. Even if I’ve only written a couple of sentences. I have to hear it, to know whether or not I like it, or it’s what I want to say.

Luckily I’m a fast writer, so my need to edit frequently doesn’t really slow me down. In fact, I swear it speeds me up. Which doesn’t mean to say I don’t edit again when I’m done. Of course I do. I just have to write and polish and write and edit and write and change and write and re-write until I’m finished. And then I do it again. And sometimes, again.

Happily, I do know when enough’s enough. When it’s good to go. And then it’s up to the client or the editor to suggest further changes or improvements. Constructive criticism I love and seek. On the other hand, people who say, “I just don’t like that word” or change semi-colons to periods just because they feel like it, irk me.

Minutiae bores me. I’m all over big picture thinkers.

5. Okay, enough about me …

WordPress is home to hundreds and hundreds of terrific bloggers and great blogs. I read tons of them and follow as many as time permits. For me to narrow it down to no more than three bloggers is very difficult. But alas, it’s the rule:

  1. I’m a voracious reader. Always have been. So I’ve read many a book review in my time, including those in the New York Times. But never has anyone made me want to read a book as much as Claire at Word by Word. My bookshelves, table tops and iPad are literally groaning with the weight of all the books I’ve bought because of something she’s said. And from time to time she also treats us to some of her own musings or personal stories — which I wish she’d do more often, hint hint. So Claire, I hope you accept this invitation. And for all of you who read this blog post of mine, you can find Claire here.
  2. Gwen Stephens is a wife and a mother, with a full-time job. But she loves to write (and she’s good at it). One day she hopes to be able to make a career out of writing. She’s passionate and committed; and what I love the most is, despite the fact she’s as busy as she is, she makes time for her writing. Always. Every day, even if it means getting up a couple of hours earlier each morning. Dedication, with a capital “D”. It’s easier said than done, but I know, in the end, it will pay off for her. She will live that dream. And in the meantime, I hope she accepts this invitation so you can get to know her. Until then, you can find Gwen here.
  3. Chris Black’s been writing and publishing poetry for 20+ years. He’s a man of many moods, all of which he shares graciously and generously with us here, on WordPress. Whenever I read his blog posts I imagine him, wearing a cozy sweater, sitting in his study, by the fire, writing away, with a glass of his favourite spirit by his right hand and his dog at his feet. I have no idea if it’s true, but it’s my version of his story. Perhaps, if he takes me up on this invitation it’s a tidbit he’ll share. I hope so. For now, though, you can find Chris here.

There are SO many more bloggers I’d love to introduce you to. Maybe I’ll do that in an upcoming blog post. Pete, thanks again for asking me to join the tour. And thanks for your patience, everyone. I have rambled on …

 

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16 thoughts on “Blog tour: The writing process

  1. This is wonderful! I love learning more about you, and your writing and your life’s work. Thank you! Lucia
    (The page isn’t loading fully- not sure if this will show up right…)

  2. I love this! Thank you for sharing more about your writing, your work, and yourself. I am most intrigued by what makes us the unique beings we are, and also love seeing the common threads that are universal. Lovely!

    • Me too. I find the similarities and the differences between us fascinating. For that matter, I am endlessly fascinated by people and what makes us tick. And animals, as well. They are much more ‘human’ than we give them credit for.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. And wow you’re so good at “blogging games”. This is the first time I’ve participated in one, and I followed MOST of the directions (I didn’t write your or Trent’s or Lori’s bio).

    It’s interesting and admirable you can write copy and white papers and books and blogs and whatever, right? I do think you’ve grown immensely in the two or so years I’ve been following you. I remember when you and I used to post every day (at the same hour?) and slowed down around the same time too (December). It seems the quality (of the writing specifically not the story) has gone up.

    I think we’re “wisening” πŸ™‚

    Great post!

    • Thank YOU for inviting me to play! I didn’t really follow the rules — I just said ‘stuff’ about each person — like why I like their writing, mostly. Following rules is boring. It’s more fun to misbehave I think.

      It’s funny, you know. I’d never written a white paper when a former client called and asked me if I could. And lo and behold I discovered I could :). I think I have more balls than brains sometimes. You’re every bit as versatile — just in another way. You can write every genre — and not everyone can — especially as well as you do.

      Yes, I agree my writing’s improved. It was definitely the writing every day thing. Your writing is also much improved. Although maybe that’s not the perfect word.

      I think there’s an ‘ease’ to our writing now. The voice is stronger and more assured and more comfortable in its skin.

      We did both start and sort of stop at the same time. And we DID both post at the crack of dawn. As much of a night owl as I am, I must say there is something to getting up really early and getting into it.

      There’s a part of me that misses writing every day, but it really did take up so much time. I felt like I was neglecting other work. You?

  4. A lot of my favorite bloggers are participating in this blog hop, and I loved reading your replies to the questions. You have a talent for making every topic entertaining. And I had no idea you were working on a memoir! But the biggest surprise was seeing my name at the end of the post — thank you! I’m humbled and honored to be mentioned here on 365 and Counting. Coming from you, that’s a great compliment. I’ve been invited to participate in this blog hop, and I turned the invitation down. Maybe now I’ll think it over a bit more πŸ™‚

    • I think you should re-consider and participate. I’d love to read your answers and I’m sure others would as well. You have a good following, Gwen. Your writing resonates with people. Go for it!

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