The Copywriter’s Dilemma

Davy Carren
26 min readFeb 8
(photo by Davy Carren)

The traffic light out the living room window keeps me great company on lonely nights. I watch it click from red to green to yellow and back to red. It reminds me that the world is still going on out there, not matter what. The abstract metonymy is not lost on me. Watching the walk signal counting down. Over and over. Life is happening, even if mine is not.

Homonyms and heteronyms. My arch enemies when performing these under-appreciated feats of copy: alarmingly charming bits of sentences scrapped and recast and fitted back together to get the highest engagement from an audience of called-to-action dolts. I trudge forward, single-spaced and comma wary, weary with em dashes and ellipses, throat numb with the lees of lukewarm coffee. My copy of the Chicago Manual of Style is so haggard that it’d fit in nicely with a dumpster diver’s discarded trove. I do not spell as well as I once was able; I am not very prone to accidental charm anymore. The times I spend between jobs have turned into piles of wasted rubble. Why doesn’t a different meaning confer a spelling change? Is it “that” or “which”? Does that comma go outside of the quotation marks in a parenthetical? Where should that paragraph end? I ask myself these mundane questions daily. And where does it get me? Another pointless question falling in the silence of freelancing desolation.

And so the days run into the nights and back into the days again. Empty space that fills a room with that dire necessity of “making it” when all I seem to do is make up reasons for failing, again and again.

Then I bark into the phone: “Did you say ‘All’ or ‘I’ll’? I can’t always tell these things out loud.”

Embarking on a trellis-like climb towards ambivalence and absurdity — longing, steady, losing — I step all over conclusions and get “bare minimum” with descriptions. Modes of desperation, I guess. Yet still, I pursue these deliverables-seeking vultures with plummeting exasperation and a perceived willingness that exceeds the positions of all my internal gauges. I tell them things like, “The consumer is a spectator awaiting your permission to buy. You must assuage their sense of purpose with real-life examples of what you can do to make that life better.” And then I sneeze all over my laptop’s screen, leaving a mushy trail of mucus over my latest draft of content. Wiping it…

Davy Carren

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