A Bump, or a Wall?

This week, I received a well-written, articulate note from Yan in Montreal, who wants to begin his path toward the writer’s life.

In his email, he talks about wanting to purchase AWAI programs to sell his travel photography, to work on autoresponders, and to become an Internet research specialist.

These are good ideas. What’s keeping him from purchasing a program and taking the next step?

He has an unusual problem. In his own words:

“My biggest and greatest fear is that English is my second language, French is my primary.”

Yan wonders if I know of copywriters who learned English as a second language.

Yes, I know a few. Salman Rushdie springs to mind, who was born in India and worked as an ad writer for Ogilvy and Mather for seven years before publishing novels. Closer to home for Yan, there are copywriters in Montreal who work in both languages.

There are also many copywriters who grew up knowing English but were very poor writers. I’m one of those. When I started writing marketing copy, my writing style was a liability, not an asset.

But there’s more to this story. Deeper down, he’s wondering whether his problem is a small problem, or a huge one.

What Yan will learn, as he pursues the writer’s life, is that living with uncertainty is part of being a freelancer, especially at the beginning. Each of us has obstacles to overcome, and sometimes, it’s hard to tell if they’re bumps in the road, or walls that can’t be climbed.

When I begin a new challenge, I can’t assess how large a problem is because I don’t have experience.

But uncovering problems, and coming up with ways to address them, is proof that you’re on the right track.

Yan is a problem solver — he’s come up with a good idea to overcome his obstacle. His employer is offering business writing classes so he’s going to take those. Having an easy solution suggests that he’s encountered a bump in the road.

There are many other ways he can tackle his problem, like hiring a proofreader, working with a mentor, or joining an AWAI peer review group.

Purchasing his first program, working through it, and freelancing on the side will also help him tackle his problem because he’ll build skills, confidence, and experience — without risk.

Yan is a little apprehensive, and that’s only natural. Beginnings often make us nervous. Years ago, someone told me that the best test of personal growth is a simple question. “Did you accomplish something that frightened you?”

I’m glad to say that I’ve overcome many things that frightened me, like becoming a copywriter.

I think Yan will too. Yan, thanks for writing, and everyone, remember, if you have a question for me, drop a note to brianwhitaker@awaionline.com and I’ll work to get you an answer.

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:
Average: 5.0
Published: January 17, 2013

1 Response to “A Bump, or a Wall?”

  1. This is inspiring... specially for beginners in the business... just like me... thanks a lot.

    MagidaApril 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm


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)