AWAI Writing Challenge Winning Entry:
The Perks and Benefits of Living the “Writer’s Life” Merely Scratch the Surface of What It’s Really All About
The “writer’s life” took on a whole new meaning for me about six months ago.
You see, prior to that, I thought I knew what the “writer’s life” was all about … and I was having a blast.
I was working when I wanted and for whom I wanted … keeping the mileage (read: gas consumption!) down to a bare minimum … and completing copywriting projects from my beach house on the weekends, rather than being locked into an eight-hour day toiling away in a drab, uninviting office.
It was all good.
But then, last October 24, reality hit home when, during a routine doctor’s visit, my Mom was sent to the emergency room for testing.
That day marked the beginning of 16 straight weeks of her bouncing back and forth between the hospital and a sub-acute rehab facility. During that time she had a variety of ailments, including pancreatitis, high heart rate, high blood pressure, elevated sugar counts, a urinary tract infection and pulmonary embolisms, to name a few.
And lest I forget, on December 23 – two days before Christmas and three days before her 87th birthday – she had her gall bladder extracted in a dangerous procedure.
She finally came home in mid-February and was doing fairly well … that is, until she fell on March 12 and fractured her hip.
Then it was back to the hospital for about 10 days to have it surgically repaired with a steel pin insert, followed by a return to the sub-acute facility for another month.
She came back home again a couple days before Easter, and is presently going for outpatient rehab twice a week and seems to be “on the mend.”
During her stay in the hospital and rehab, with few exceptions, I was there at least twice a day to keep track of her health care – once or twice during the day by myself, and then again every evening with my wife, Lynn.
Simply keeping track of the team of doctors looking after her was a monumental challenge. I often felt like the “middle man,” making sure one knew what the other was doing. And when I wasn’t at the hospital or the rehab, I was working the phones from home.
When she came home – and this remains in effect to this very day – we make sure she’s able to get out of bed, and then throughout the day I help her with everything from getting her morning cup of coffee, to making her lunch, getting her to and from the bathroom, making her dinner, and making sure she’s able to safely get back to bed at night. And that’s just the basics.
Here’s the thing …
I’m giving you the “nickel tour” of these past six months to drive home a point – and the point is that this whole ordeal changed my perception of the “writer’s life” in a profound and fundamental way.
Indeed, it made me stop and think what it’s really all about.
Had I not taken the initiative to be a freelance copywriter and pursue the “writer’s life,” I don’t know how I would’ve managed my mom’s care during this time. For me, having the opportunity to be available 24/7 and coordinate her care was what Michael Masterson might call “the Glicken.”
What I realized throughout these past six months actually mirrors one of the fundamental rules for all copywriting, one that we all drill on as we learn to be working copywriters – and that is to recognize the core desires of our prospects.
(No, I’m not referring to Mom … her core desire never wavered … she wanted to go HOME!)
Rather, in this case – lo and behold – the prospect turned out to be myself, and my core desire went far beyond the allure of being able to call my own shots or work from a beach house. What it became was my need to maintain a flexible schedule in order to take care of my mom.
And chances are I never would’ve been able to do it if I hadn’t found AWAI and been living the “writer’s life.”
Take a moment and think about your own situation and those you care deeply about. Consider why you’re really pursuing the “writer’s life.” Is it simply to make your own hours, or is it to fulfill a greater purpose?
My guess is if you drill down deep enough, you’ll discover it’s the latter.
We all have desires, but as responsible human beings I think our needs will always transgress those desires.
As copywriters, we often talk about “features” and “benefits.” But now I see there’s another level to the equation, that being “results.”
Let me give you an example: A father buys his son a toy for Christmas. The “feature” is that the toy comes equipped with batteries. The “benefit” is that the dad doesn’t have to purchase them separately. But the “result” is …
… Dad gets to see the joy on his son’s face as he tears open the package on Christmas morning and begins playing with his new toy immediately!
Yes, the obvious perks of the “writer’s life” are great, but those benefits – working from home, making our own schedules, and such – merely scratch the surface of what it’s really all about.
No doubt, the benefits are nice. But it’s the results of the “writer’s life” that will tug on your heartstrings.
[Ed. Note: The above essay by John Torre is the winning entry in the AWAI Writing Challenge for April 30, 2009. Theme: In 1,000 words or less, tell us what “the writer’s life” means to you. John will receive a $50 gift certificate.]