Hard or Easy?

Is being a copywriter hard or easy for you?

I ask because over the past couple of weeks, I tried a contrarian experiment on myself. I did something that goes against almost every bit of advice about constructive self-talk.

I modeled the experiment on a recent experience. After I came back from camping a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by how well I had handled myself even though the experience was difficult. My last camping trip was 15 years ago, and so I expected to be rusty, struggle with basic skills, and be easily worn out.

I was conscious of it being hard, but I did really well at it. Tents got pitched, fires got started, small children got carried up and down mountains, and I thrived. So, when I got back in my office, I tried an experiment in self-talk.

I said, “Brian, your work is really hard. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get everything done and you’re really going to have to put some hours into your work.”

I kept up that self-talk for about a week.

Then I decided to try something different. This Monday, I sat down and told myself another story.

“Brian,” I said, “your job is easy as pie. You’re not digging ditches or chasing criminals. You have a few projects this week, they’ll be easy to complete, you can take Thursday and Friday off, and you’ll be fine.”

In my little self-talk experiment, what do you think I discovered?

Each of us has a storyline about ourselves. It’s made up of a mix of experience and rose-colored perception. In other words, it’s a mix of the way we are and the way we want to be. We look at our pasts and paint a picture, and like any painting, it’s not quite a perfect depiction of reality. Memory gets colored by our values and biases. We see ourselves as we want to be. My picture looks a little bit like this:

  • Lost 30 pounds in high school by jogging and weight lifting
  • Broke my paralyzing fear of public speaking by doing 50 public presentations in a year
  • Won two competitive fellowships to study at Oxford and the University of Edinburgh
  • Overcame ill-health to achieve a wide range of goals
  • After a failed entrepreneurial venture, I moved from temp employee to senior management at a Fortune 50 corporation and got two plum expatriate assignments in the process

Do you see a theme here? I value overcoming difficulty. If I were being grandiose, my personal elevator pitch would probably start out, “In the face of insurmountable odds, Brian accomplished X, Y, and Z.”

I know, you can laugh at that, it’s intended to be funny. But it sums up a fundamental truth about me.

I’m not saying this is true for everyone. But it is true for me. I value overcoming obstacles.

In the week when I made everything difficult, I worked out more, started work earlier, got more tasks done, and had greater satisfaction and more free time. I went to bed tired and woke up with all guns blazing.

This week, I putzed around, ate too much, didn’t sleep well, worried more, found my thought processes more jumbled, didn’t get work done on time, was much more distractible, and had a lot less satisfaction.

I learned that my self-talk had to align with my sense of self.

Which experiment did I cut short? You’d be right to think the second one. I’m back to seeing my work life as a challenge and finding purpose in that. I’m back to climbing Everest and finding pleasure in the trek.

So I ask you:

  • What story do you tell about yourself?
  • How does that story serve you?
  • How does your perception of your work align with your personal story?
  • Should your work be easy or hard for you?
The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
No ratings yet
Published: October 25, 2012

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)