And the pandemic gave me the very last piece I was waiting for.
I always wanted to be a writer, but never followed through on academic pursuits. Instead, throughout the 1990s, I wrote book-length letters to my cousin in Abbotsford.
That was my training in writing and communication — being a bookworm who wrote excruciatingly long letters.
When Andrew and I met in 2001, I was working at Loewen Windows. Hardly a writerly occupation, though their intricate specialty designs caught my eye and soon I was working on simulated divided light patterns in the specialty department. It was creative problem solving, light work physically, and I enjoyed it. Andrew and I married, and with my factory job, I put him through his second university degree.
Walking to the factory every morning for my shift, I’d pass homes with one light lit cozily in the dark. I imagined people inside wearing fuzzy PJs, cradling mugs of coffee, feet up, content in their houses.
Outside, I shivered and walked faster, trying to outrun frostbite, crossing Highway 12 North, hurrying down the industrial gravel road, my destination looming in the distance.
I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to have those cozy mornings with no need of leaving the house. I never imagined there would ever be a way to have both.
When Andrew graduated from university and secured a permanent position, it was time for me to move on as well. While I had enjoyed my time at Loewen Windows, it wasn’t destined to be a permanent thing for me. Five years was a respectable amount of time and my coworkers assured me that I was now a “lifer”. They were wrong.
I only applied for one job — copywriter.
I never would’ve had the confidence to even pursue this, the dream job I didn’t even know existed, except my brother-in-law had landed this exact position. In true in-law fashion, I was sure that if he could do it, so could I.
My first 14 years of copywriting flew by. Fourteen years! I figured out how to continue my walk-to-work habit. However, this time I had to somehow arrive at work looking Office-Career-Ready. I had many missteps. The Manitoba climate makes it difficult to arrive on foot looking nicely put-together, let me tell you. I took peculiar joy in struggling through blizzards to arrive at work thoroughly disheveled. However, on such mornings, I’d leave for work an hour early, scramble up the staircase undetected in those early hours, fixing my appearance and applying makeup in the ladies bathroom upon arrival. It was the only way.
And so, I figured sitting at my desk with my mug of workplace coffee, logging into my computer where my email signature stated “Creative Writer” was the closest I’d get to getting what I wanted — cozy mornings, writing.
I never dreamed the final piece would fall into place.
Suddenly, mid-March 2020, everyone in my workplace picked up our computers and evacuated to begin working from the safety of our homes “for the time being”.
We all know how the pandemic story goes, but for me personally, it’s given me what I always wanted — those cozy mornings nestled by my window with a coffee are now mine. Alongside the continued title of Creative Writer.
Okay okay okay, I know what you’re thinking — my dreams are breathtakingly modest. My penchant for contentment is perhaps a little off the charts.
Look. I’ve seen many coworkers come and go over the years — many of whom I loved and respected. I think it’s all about individual dreams — theirs were different, or far grander, and they had to pursue them. I’ll be honest though — I’ve seen many return, too.
I’ll be even more honest now. There’s room for someone — a fellow writer, someone who loves writing — to land this cozy daytime work-from-home occupation.
I never would have dreamed I’d be moderately successful in this role. I still don’t think I am. Thankfully, what I think of my writing abilities is largely irrelevant. I’ve learned that what really matters is what my coworkers tell each other about my work.
If someone would ask me what’s important for a copywriter to know or to do to achieve success (meaning, so that those selling and purchasing and encountering your work say good things about it, to each other), here’s what I’d say:
The ability to write.
(Bonus: A love of writing and/or a compulsion to write.)
Empathy. The ability to put yourself into the shoes of the person selling your writing, the person buying your writing, and of course the person encountering your writing.
(Bonus: interest in or knowledge of psychology and the ability to apply this knowledge to the copy you create.)
Imagination. Helps with empathy but also with coming up with unique ideas.
The ability to mimic the voice and tone of others. (A keen sense of empathy helps a lot.)
Wit. If you love creating clever puns, you’ll probably excel at writing slogans and taglines.
Curiosity. You encounter a vast array of products and services in this role and won’t know about all of them at the outset. Ways to learn more include googling, and having conversations with those who know. (Bonus: a love of learning about all these curious new products, services, stories, and situations will inform your work and enhance your interactions.)
The ability to listen. If you can’t understand the communicator, you might just need to listen a little more, or ask better questions, and listen to the answers. (Never assume the communicator is an idiot. That’s when you stop listening and you won’t be able to move the project forward. None of the people you’ll interact with here are idiots. If you think they are, you’re just a truly awful listener and this won’t be the career for you.)
A desire to use your ability to write, to help others achieve their goals (which is when they say good things about you to each other and your reputation and paycheque grows).
I love hiding away in my cozy home, helping quietly from a distance, in this manner.
It’s easy to think I’m invisible I’m this role, and I so enjoy the idea of being an invisible helper by way of writing.
However, I’ve learned that I’m not entirely invisible. There are occasions that people have requested that I be the only one to take care of their copy. I had no idea that my name was on any of my work, or that people were aware when they see me on the street that I’m the one who wrote something for them.
But many more people are aware than I had ever dreamed. And we are all much more connected than I had originally assumed, so long ago.
If you share my modest dream of a career cozily writing from home, and want to know more, let me know. There might be a place for one such as you. (Anywhere on the Canadian prairies with a good internet connection.)
Happy time-between-Christmas-and-New Years, my friends.
(Feature photo: view from my balcony where I sit with my coffee every morning until it’s time to show up for work… by walking into the next room and waking up my computer mouse.)