Welcome to my mind!
In this precious corner of my website, you can witness my reflections first-hand along the bumpy road of becoming a freelance copywriter. To read all about the madness going on in my head under the title of Thinking, scroll down or...
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Beat this villain disguised as a hero
*Spoiler alert* In today’s post, I’m going to talk about the Spiderman movie, Far From Home, so if you haven’t seen it and it’s on your list, you know the drill.
In the beginning of the movie, Mysterio is introduced as a superhero combating all sorts of villains. He then teams up with Superman to beat them.
Later, it turns out that those villains he was fighting were just holographic illusions he’d created himself, and the bad boy was actually him, disguised as a hero. He only created the illusions to gain the trust of Spiderman and to eventually stab him in the back. Savage.
Believe it or not, you also have a sneaky little Mysterio in your life.
It’s the demon telling you that he just wants to protect you from failure, humiliation and boredom. That voice in your head (no, not Miralinda, your childhood imaginary friend, the other voice), whispering “you better get your sock drawer re-organised before you start writing that essay due tomorrow.”
Or “hmm that documentary about insect mating looks interesting, you should probably check it out before you get the laundry done.”
Yes, it’s your good ol’ friend, procrastination.
A 2013 study found that procrastination has nothing to do with poor time management, laziness or self-control. (Yay!) In reality, it is an emotional self-defence mechanism to avoid negative moods and emotions associated with a task, whether that be boredom, anxiety or self-doubt.
Well, it’s mighty big of him to try and protect you, but you know you’re better off without him. You know that if you listen to him, you’ll end up being awake all night until 8 in the morning writing the essay, with no clean clothes to wear, and then beating yourself up because you gave in to him. Again.
In case you are wondering: procrastination + me = amigos. Big time.
And I’ve got a little trick for ya if you’re in the same sinking boat.
A while ago I came across a YouTube video on the topic. It recommended a technique to overcome procrastination, called “throwing the ball over the fence” - the ball being the reward and the fence the task you’ve been putting off.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that ball isn’t all that tempting, and that fence is way too high. I don’t even need the ball and I don’t have an urge to get the ball. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I started thinking about what would make me jump out of my skin and climb. I came to realise that it would have to be on my side of the fence. In other words, a threat rather than a reward. Something like a hungry lion or puma. Or a balloon. Balloons scare me to death. That sure as hell would make me run and climb.
So here goes my advice:
Find your lion or puma or whatever you fear the most. But a spider won’t do it. You have to dig deeper to find your biggest fears. Down where failure, judgement and humiliation hide. Now we’re talking!
Note: it probably won’t work with mundane tasks such as the laundry. Unless you have deep fears attached to your laundry not being done. (If you do, I don’t judge you. I have deep fears attached to my flat not being clean.)
Anyway, back to the point. As an example, here’s what I’m doing right now: I told everyone I could about my plans. Friends and family, lovers and haters, the neighbour’s cat, the postman... Because I don’t want to seem like a failure in their eyes and I’d hate to disappoint them. Especially the cat.
And to avoid that, I have no other choice but to write regularly.
In fact, this blog is the result of my little exercise and you are my lion. So please keep chasing me with those scary teeth of yours, and I’ll keep mounting the fences and deliver content to you.
Non-native English speakers, this one's for you
I decided to celebrate my redundancy with a trip back home to Hungary. Nothing soothes my nerves like a gin & tonic party featuring Gran.
About a week ago I was queuing at a sandwich bar. I was waiting for my turn and I only had one guy left in front of me, when all of a sudden, I spotted another queue in the making. My heart started to race faster than people running to the toilet after eating sugar free Haribos.
Why would you do that when there’s a perfectly fine queue already? WHY?
On top of that, the cashier lady, once finished with the guy in front of me, started serving people in the other queue. Can’t she see that I was there first??
(That was a rhetorical question. Of course she can. She just doesn’t give a tiny rat’s ass.)
Also, what’s wrong with me, why am I getting so irritated? I never used to care about things like that. So I’ll have to wait a couple of minutes longer, big deal.
Then I realised: OMG, I'm becoming British! We all know the stereotype about Brits and their queues. It’s true. The Holy Queue must be respected at all times. And I’m all for queues now. Go Team Queue!
Oddly, that was a happy moment. I’ll tell you why in just a minute, but before I do, I wanted to talk about a less joyous occasion. It happened a few days before the queue incident.
I almost quit.
No news there, the devil sitting on my shoulder wants me to quit every other day. But no need to panic! Brian Tracy gal is still with me in my head to keep me going. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my previous post.)
I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, when I came across some blond lady advertising a copywriting course. I watched her video. She has the most annoying fake-bubbly style that I can’t stand, yet, she almost convinced me that it was a good idea to buy her $500 course.
I didn’t buy it in the end but I checked her website and subscribed to her emails. (She must be good if she almost convinced the unemployed me to buy a $500 course, right?)
Out of curiosity, I also checked the comments under the ad and I came across a question that had been bothering me too: “Would you recommend it to non-native English speakers?”
Her answer: “No, we wouldn’t recommend copywriting to non-native English speakers. Even if you’re fluent, you wouldn’t be able to understand the nuances of the language.”
For a moment there I froze, and the drama queen inside me came to the surface. That’s it. This is the end. I threw myself to the ground like a football player when an opponent pokes his shoulder with his pinkie.
But it wasn’t enough for me. It was like lukewarm water and I wanted the hot and stinky contents of the cesspit. Gimme the dirty stuff!
So I went ahead and googled “copywriting for non-native English speakers”. Well, I got what I asked for. You know when your toe is sore, you google it and immediately self-diagnose with toe cancer? That’s what happened.
I found some juicy pieces of meat out there like:
“Non-native English speakers are the worst, their work is always full of spelling and grammar mistakes, it always has to be edited.”
Or “I would never have my copy done by a non-native English speaker.”
That was a punch in the stomach. There were some positive opinions, too, but I don’t care about those. (Why would I? That’d just make me feel better...)
Anyhow, I found something more interesting. Some comments mentioned the cultural factor: if you didn't grow up in the specific society you want to write for, you won’t understand its cultural references and won’t be able to produce effective copy.
It’s not so much about the language as it is about the culture, apparently. Well, I certainly can’t prove the contrary.
But if you live in a society long enough, you can definitely pick up on some of its cultural cues and even make them part of your identity. Like I did with the queues. There is hope!
Is it going to be enough for effective copywriting? No idea. But I guess I’ll find out at some point.
PS. just to close the loop on my insecurity about the language barrier… a few days ago I read something from Kevin Rogers, founder of Copy Chief - whose emails I’d subscribed to before that lady's and am still subscribed to - where he answered the same question: it is absolutely possible. It might be more difficult for non-native speakers, but they can even turn it to their advantage.
Conclusion: sorry, annoying blond woman, but I’ll stick with the Chief. And the queues.
All hail Brian Tracy gal, my saviour
I caved. I gave up my principles. Shame on me!
No, I didn’t sell a cure-all detoxifier device to an elderly lady for $1,000. I just downloaded a running app.
I used to be against fancy running apps. If I really want to run, I’ll just go and run, that was my philosophy. I never understood why I’d need an app for that.
Until I really wanted to run.
I’d tried it before, but it would always turn into a walk of shame after a 3-minute performance of me gasping for breath like a dementor. So I finally gave in to the pressure and got one of those apps, around about the same time I started learning about copywriting.
Fast forward six weeks: I could run for 30 minutes straight. Okay, you got me, I stopped once. But only because I had to, at a crosswalk.
This could be a sneaky promotion for a running app, but unfortunately, nobody pays me to write this post. Although, something good might still come out of it. What I want to share with you is the lesson I learned from this mighty app. A lesson that helped me through the moments I wanted to give up on copywriting.
So there I am with my fancy app, cranking up my awkward workout playlist (the first song on it is Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination) and hitting the start button. All of a sudden, a woman starts talking to me. I mean, in the app.
Whoa! That was unexpected.
Anyway, I roll with it because she is saying nice things to me, like “You’re a running superstar, you can do it, you are strong.” I’m totally buying it. It’s like having my own Brian Tracy in my head. Except that this one seems to be working.
But I suspect that it’s not the motivational crap that did the trick.
Later it turned out that it was a 6-week 5K program within the app. It basically builds up your endurance gradually, week by week. In the first week, you do 1-minute running intervals followed by 2-minute recovery intervals. Then the duration of the running intervals increases, while the recovery time drops, all the way until week 6, when you should be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping.
Actually, I was wrong. There was one motivational thought from this Brian Tracy gal that I found useful: “Take one step at a time. One interval at a time. One workout at a time. Focus on achieving in the now, and you’ll have time to focus on the future once you’re there.” (Not word for word, but that was the gist of it.)
Cheesy? Maybe. But I find it 100% relatable.
And if you are anything like me, you will, too.
The thing is, when I get excited about something, I want to know all about it. I dive in like Winnie the Pooh dives into honey. I can’t get enough. Until my brain decides that it’s too much and I get overwhelmed.
That’s when I usually quit.
Not because I’m not capable. But because I compare myself to people that are at workout number 241 while I’m at workout number 2. And that's not exactly a self-love retreat. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I do.
All hail Brian Tracy gal who came to my rescue this time and saved me from giving up again. For now.
A personal development lesson from Rachel Green
I am a crazy Friends-lady. I've seen the entire show hundreds of times, and will probably watch it another few hundred times.
Although, I must admit that nowadays I only turn to it when I seek comfort. And over the past few weeks, I needed a lot of comfort. Freelance copywriting is not a piece of cake. Not in the beginning, anyway.
The other evening I was watching the One Where Phoebe Runs. In this episode, Rachel moves in with Phoebe and they decide to go for a run in the name of roommate bonding. This little bonding exercise ends up separating the two friends. At least for a while.
Phoebe, the flower child, runs like no other human on planet Earth. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant running, that’s about it. Except that she also has two hands she can lift in the air and wave around, adding to the experience.
She finds it more fun this way.
Princess Rachel doesn’t.
She finds it a tad embarrassing. She ends up pretending to have a sprained ankle to avoid having to go with Phoebe again. Well, Phoebe might be a bit absent-minded, but she is not completely stupid. One morning when Rachel sneaks out for a jog, Phoebe unveils the lie and confronts her.
The two roommates don’t talk for a while... until Rachel goes for a run in Central Park and, out of curiosity, tries running à la Phoebe.
And guess what? She loves it!
She then bumps into Phoebe and they continue the run like two happy elephants on the endless plains of the savannah.
This made me think:
Rachel must have felt the same way I did when I reached out to businesses offering my samples in Project 1. First, it was extremely uncomfortable. I kept agonising over how these people would judge me and what they would think about me and my writing. Then once I started doing it, it felt liberating.
The good and the bad news is:
Most of the time, people don't think anything about you. (No offence.) People are too preoccupied with their own business to think about a stranger they will never ever see or speak to again.
It’s all in your mind.
And if you still can't get this thought out of your head, just imagine you're a baby elephant. After all, how could anyone possibly judge a baby elephant?
Now go on, Dumbo, reach for the stars!
The story of a clumsy girl and her big trade-off
I’m clumsy AF. Anybody who’s ever seen me for just two minutes can justify that. I break the bulletproof glass, spill water from a closed bottle and I bet I could drop something glued to my hand, too. It’s some superhuman gift I have.
I once missed my stop on the bus because I was so absorbed in reading about some psychopath serial killer (my favourite topic ever, always soothes my nerves).
I ended up getting off in the middle of fckn Narnia. It was dark already. No streetlights, no pavements, only pouring rain. And rocks. I tripped over the rocks, straight into the mud. To top it off, my phone’s battery was also dying. And I was convinced I’d die out there, too.
(Spoiler: I didn’t)
Another time I was running late for my hair appointment. It was my first time going to that place. My sense of direction competes with that of a headless chicken so, obviously, I got lost. As the salon didn’t accept cards, I also had to stop at an ATM on the way to get some cash.
While I was waiting for the machine to give out the cash, I was trying to put my talents into practice on Google Maps to figure out the way to the salon. But the machine interrupted. It gave out my card, then I quickly put it back in my wallet and left in a rush.
Without taking the cash.
I could go on and on and on... but you get the point.
This used to frustrate the hell out of me. I mean, seriously, how difficult is it to withdraw cash from an ATM?
What’s even worse is that it’s rarely appreciated by employers. You must stay super-focused all the time... you must be well organised... you must be efficient...
All of which, as the examples show above, I am not very good at by nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I can do it all if I have to. It'll just look something like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop.
And yet, I’ve recently come to realise that I wouldn’t trade my unwanted talents for any amount of content on psychopaths (and that’s a big trade-off, in case that didn’t come across).
Firstly, by adding a little self-irony, these unfortunate events in my life make funny stories. Unless I end up getting hurt. Then, it’s less amusing.
Secondly, I learned the reason behind my clumsiness. And that’s because I spend a lot of time wandering around in my head, not paying much attention to the world outside. That’s the default setting of my brain.
Yes, when I stare blankly into space, sometimes I’m just daydreaming. But more often than not, I am thinking about groundbreaking ideas. Such as how my friends’ personality is reflected in their ironing habits.
Okay, I know, it still doesn’t sound like I hit the jackpot, but hear me out.
Apparently, this kind of thinking can come in handy in writing. At least, that’s what they say, and I'd like to believe so. And even if not, it's still a lot of fun.
Either way, the bottom line is:
If it takes clumsiness to have random ideas pop into my head, then so be it! As long as I manage to keep myself alive.
A ship I need to catch
I recently had a chat with a friend about my plans to become a copywriter. She asked me: “How determined are you?”
Intriguing question, but before I answer, here’s my background story:
Like most tourism & hospitality workers during the corona pandemic in the UK, I was furloughed. Long story short, for 2 months I was in the privileged situation of keeping my job, not having to work and still getting paid.
I took advantage of my situation and started looking into copywriting. Initially just to keep my sanity, later to potentially develop a skill that will allow me to leave the heavens of tourism & hospitality.
So how determined am I? Let me try to explain.
Picture yourself on a desert island. You have been stranded for four years. Lucky that you started tallying the days in the beginning, otherwise you’d have no idea. Throughout the years, you learned how to survive. You know how to deal with the dangers of the wilderness, you can get food and you have built yourself a shelter.
But it’s not ideal, the island is not where you belong. You want to go home. And your only real chance is if a ship or boat floats by and picks you up.
You have seen a few in the past years:
One time, there was this huge cargo ship, but it was quite far off the coast. You set fire to catch their attention, but no luck. They were too far, plus usually there aren’t many people on those ships.
You have one of those flare guns you saved from your boat four years ago. But you want to be careful, it only has a few shots left and you don’t want to waste your precious resources. You estimated your chances too low with the cargo ship, so you decided not to use it.
Another time a sail came pretty close to the coast. It must have been drifted there by the thunderstorm the previous night, because you'd never seen any of those around. You decided to try both the fire and the gun, but you went unnoticed. “Never mind” you thought to yourself, “it wouldn’t have been safe anyway”.
But this time, it’s different. You see a huge cruise ship. There are plenty of people on it, it’s close enough to the coast and it looks safe. It must be a mistake, because in your four years on this island, you haven’t seen any cruise ships passing by.
Anyhow, you think that this is your big chance to break free. You set the entire coast on fire. You grab your gun and start shooting like crazy. You give it your all. You know that if you miss this one, you will probably never have another chance like this.
So here I am, burning down the coast, using up all my shots, waving my hands around, jumping up & down and shouting like Mel Gibson in Braveheart: "Freedoooooom!"
I hope this answers the question.