Are all copywriters this obsessive?

June 4, 2015 •
Are all copywriters this obsessive feature image

I’m obsessive. And a little extreme.  In most things, it’s all or nothing. I don’t know if it’s because my dad always said, “If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing properly”, but that’s certainly how I look at things.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure it’s not because he said that. Because he also used to say, “A job that’s worth sitting down to do isn’t worth doing.” Hmmm…

In either case, I’m interested to know. Are all copywriters this obsessive? Or am I just as strange as my wife thinks I am?

Do you do these sorts of things…?

Micro-managing the kettle

This just happened. It’s what prompted me to write this post.

Our kettle is an automatic electric one. Nothing special, but when it boils, it turns itself off. It also turns itself off when you take it off the base, even if it hasn’t finished boiling.

Sometimes when I’m making a cuppa, I get impatient, and I take the kettle off its base before it’s technically finished boiling. (It’s boiling, but it’s still heating.)

But before I take it off, I always manually turn it off, even though I know it’ll automatically turn itself off when it leaves the base. Can’t help myself.

Told you. Weird.

Just the right app

I love technology. This post is just the start: 33 software tools for freelance copywriters. If you follow me on Google+, you’ll know I often post about Android apps, operating systems, Windows programs, games and various other tech stuff.

But it’s an unhealthy kind of love.

Take my task and event apps, for instance. I use Remember The Milk for tasks and Google Calendar for appointments. The combination works well. The distinction for me (yes I have a clear distinction!) is that if I have to do something at a particular time (e.g. it’s an appointment with someone) it goes in Google Calendar. Everything else is just stuff I have to do today, preferably at around the time suggested. (e.g. “Finish Ian’s copy today” or “Take the bins out at 8pm”.) It can all go in Remember The Milk.

This makes sense to me, but it’s more than just a logical thing. I like ticking things off my list. And as I tend to have more general tasks than appointments, I end up with far more things in Remember The Milk than in Google Calendar. And it’s a checklist, not just a calendar layout, so I get to satisfy my ticking fetish.

But that’s not even the worst of it. For a while there, I became obsessed with combining both appointments and tasks into one app. (Indeed, I used to have them all in Remember The Milk, but I didn’t like that it had no calendar view, and also that I couldn’t share events with my wife.) I remember Sharon and I had a kid-free day once, and we went down to the Haven at Terrigal and had a picnic in the sun. I spent most of the day stressing about which app to choose. It even made me hyperventilate a bit (that’s my anxiety symptom).

Of course, despite hours of searching and testing, I couldn’t find anything to fit the bill, so I decided to create my own. I mean COME ON! Why can’t Remember The Milk have a shareable calendar view too? (Unfortunately, my business partner doesn’t share my obsession, and he wasn’t interested in building the app. If you want to build it, please let me know!)

Mockup of my task calendar app

(Also note that when I went to insert the above image into this post, I noticed that the last item in the checklist on the left said “Second day of Holidays” when it should have said “Third day of Holidays”. So I actually opened Balsamiq, fixed it and overwrote the image file before uploading. Did that little mistake really matter? No! But in my brain it was COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!)

Eventually I gave up on the idea of combining tasks and appointments (that resignation killed me), and I settled on having them in different places.

But not before I set Sharon up with Google calendar and all sorts of fancy syncing apps because she’s on an iPhone and it didn’t work the way I wanted it to.

She still uses her wall calendar. :-\

I have a ticking fetish

As I mentioned above, I have a ticking fetish. (Get your mind out of the gutter. I said TICKing, not TICKLing. I HATE being tickled!)

Ticking off my tasks in Remember The Milk gives me an inordinate amount of satisfaction. Sure, I know there’s a bit of that in everyone, but something tells me I take it to the limit.

For instance, I use Google Keep checklists to track what I need to upgrade in Clash of Clans, and in what order. One checklist for each town hall level.  (Disclaimer: I made myself stop doing this because it’s just a game. Right? RIGHT?!)

Here’s an example of one of my CoC checklists:

Clash of Clans checklist

Talking of taking it to the limit

The Eagles are my favourite band. And my favourite song of theirs is Take it to the Limit. This exact version, to be precise (I had it bookmarked in Evernote! 😉 And my favourite part in this song is Randy Meisner’s high note, right at the end. Not the first high note, the second one!

Nothing obsessive there I know. Except for the Evernote thing. So let me expand…

I read an article once about how humans have this tendency to try to separate themselves from experiences, because that gives them the feeling they’re bigger, more important than what happens to them.

So if you taste a nice wine, you might just enjoy it, but you’ll probably also think about how you’re enjoying it. Because if you have an enjoyable experience and simultaneously reflect on that experience, you feel as if you’re above it. Somehow more than it. That there’s some overarching value to you other than your immediate sensory experiences.

But the article said the truth is there’s no real difference between the two. The enjoyment and the reflection on the enjoyment are both just experiences. And they don’t happen in parallel. That’s impossible. Although you may not notice it, they actually happen in series. So you might be just enjoying it one moment, then you might think about how you’re enjoying it, then you might just enjoy it again, and so on.

Tragically, this insight into human nature has ruined my favourite part of my favourite song by my favourite band. For some reason, I must have chosen my enjoyment of Randy’s high note as my own personal example to make sense of the article. Now, whenever I hear that soaring note at the end of Take it to the Limit, my brain flits madly, moth-like, between the enjoyment and the reflection on the enjoyment.

In fact, I rarely just enjoy it because I’m always thinking about whether I’m enjoying it or I’m actually thinking about enjoying it. “Ah this is a beautiful note. I’m enjoying it. Hold on, am I enjoying it or thinking about how I’m enjoying it? Argh! Now I’m thinking about whether I’m thinking about enjoying it or just enjoying it.”

My brother-in-law understands this. My wife just thinks I’m crazy.

Spreadsheets to track my spreadsheets

Spreadsheets rock. I track all my copywriting jobs in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. I have an Excel spreadsheet for preparing my quotes. I create a spreadsheet when I’m buying a new microwave. I have a spreadsheet for writing meta tags, which automatically calculates if I’ve gone over Google’s character limit, and changes the displayed character count from green to red. I created a spreadsheet to calculate the attack cost of various Clash of Clans troop combinations. I share testing spreadsheets with my designer and developers when we’re building a new website. I tried Lite ‘n Easy for a while, and I have a spreadsheet to track which meals I liked (Y for yes, M for maybe, N for no. All with auto cell colouring, of course.)

I could go on…

I fix copy even when clients are happy with it

Yesterday a client signed off on a headline. And it’d been a long time coming, because her brief was terrible.

I could have (should have?) just cheered for joy and moved on with the rest of the job, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I raised my concerns with her, and suggested some alternatives. Then more again this morning.

She’ll end up with a great headline (maybe I should add this spiel to my copywriting sales page), but I’ll have spent hours more on the job than I allowed. Not good when you’re working to a fixed price!

Are you this obsessive?

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. I was up til 1am this morning, testing the SwiftKey Android keyboard. For the 5th time. (Swype is still better. 😉 Last week it was photo apps. I have ALL our photos saved to Flickr, and ALL arranged into albums (one for each kid, one for Sharon, one for me, one for my favourites, one for our camping trip earlier this year…). All new photos auto-upload from all our mobile devices to a single Flickr account and sit in a folder awaiting categorisation. And I have a Remember The Milk reminder once a month telling me to categorise them! I use QuickPic to display these albums (not the Flickr app) because it lets me change the sort order, which means I can choose to see baby photos first or photos taken yesterday. I spent hours last weekend testing whether the new Google Photos is as good as Flickr for all this stuff. (It’s not.)

In fact, as you can probably tell, it’s killing me that I don’t have time to continue with this list. But you get the idea.

Are all copywriters this obsessive? Are you? Or is it just me? Please comment…


Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Miranda Hill wrote on June 5th, 2015

Ohhhh yes, yes, yes. I am. The word 'anal' comes to mind. And I'll steal your words 'get your minds out of the gutter'. I"m particular. I like things measured, tracked and done just so. My list would be different but the sentiment is the same. I see detail everywhere. My latest toy is my new Fitbit - which tells me what I already know...that I don't sit down much. But, it does so with so much measured, graphed, skip-through-your-day delightful detail. My point - you are not alone!

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on June 5th, 2015

LOL. Good to hear I'm not alone. I tried Fitbit, but I didn't think the data was accurate enough. (Goto start of blog post.)

comment avatar
Miranda Hill wrote on June 5th, 2015

Oh I agree, it's probably not that accurate at all. However, at the moment it satisfies my need for data. I'm sure I'll move on to another obsessive behaviour soon!

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on June 5th, 2015

Definitely. I enjoyed parts of it, and I LOVED knowing it was doing its thing. To me, that's like when I have the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher and pool cleaner all going at once, as well as my virus and malware scanners. And defrag. On multiple computers. All that work happening at once, without me doing it!

comment avatar
Peter wrote on June 5th, 2015

What about serious inability to read an ugly Word document? I just have to at least fix the headings and re-paginate (and perhaps take the underlining our of the headings) before I can even begin to read that... thing they gave me which they call a [cough] manual... And don't get me started on 8pt spreadsheets. Of course i have to reformat before I start contemplating its synergies But that's not obsessive, just artistic... isn't it?

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on June 5th, 2015

I'm happy to call it artistic if you are! (And I feel your pain.)

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Margaret Moon wrote on July 28th, 2015

Lovely to see that I'm in good company. Someone sent me a project plan to review today and I couldn't read it because there were three different font sizes and the headings were inconsistent.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on July 28th, 2015

LOL. Yep, that does make things difficult. :-\

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