In November 2021, my career trajectory did a full 180°. With a Pharmacy degree and a few years of med comms experience, I joined the Creative Club – taking my first big step into the cool and colorful world of medical copywriting. Before I had time to doubt myself, it was day 1 at the virtual office, and with Stephen King’s wise ‘On Writing’ words engrained, and my A-level grammar refreshed, it was time for me to bellyflop into the pool of the unfamiliar.
Three months in and I’ve dipped my toes, mastered the doggy paddle, and taken my armbands off. Heck, I’ve even done a few lengths! In this time, I’ve learnt more lessons than I can count and know I still have a long way to go... but as the old saying goes, ‘you only know what you know’, so here are my top newbie-copywriter tips, just in case you are considering buying a swimsuit anytime soon.
1. Isolation inspires
In the modern world, it’s tough to get creative – a process heavily reliant on getting lost in your own thoughts – with so many pings and bleeps to distract us. So, I highly recommend finding your own space with no distractions – somewhere you feel safe and relaxed so that you, inspiration, and the English language can get chummy.
By 9 am, you’ll typically find me in my study with a double-shot latte in my hand, the end of a biro in my mouth and a Pink Floyd playlist or something similar humming in the background. I’m not going to pretend that my phone remains permanently out of sight, but what I will say is that when it’s completely out of the room, it does wonders for my creativity. Find what works for you; but regardless of your music taste or caffeine stimulant of choice, learn when it’s time to be alone.
2. Get comfortable with not being the smartest person in the room
When I first became a copywriter, my lack of experience coupled with my excitement meant I was both willing and hungry to learn. It was a career jump, and I knew I was relying on a background of avid reading as well as a dash of common sense and skill, so I went into it with an open mind.
On reflection, it was the best approach I could have taken because I soon came to learn that a subjective art like writing means corrections are inevitable and critique is unavoidable. It’s all about accepting and enjoying this process, and over time I’ve come to learn that almost all corrections have in fact bettered my writing in technicality, style, or often both. Enjoy being surrounded by the more experienced and be prepared to take notes.
3. Find your own voice
The irony of using a cliché to continue the subject of uniqueness makes it no less true. While being a copywriter requires fluidity in style and the ability to match specific tone and brand voice, that doesn’t mean your voice can’t be heard too. Having a blog section on our website means I get to write about things that I’m passionate about; write about these things and you’ll soon discover your voice. It might (probably) need a bit of tweaking, but you’ll find it.
On the note of standing your own ground and staying true to yourself, sure, critique is an opportunity to learn, but sometimes you are exceedingly fond of that superb choice of simile, use of imagery or word choice (after all, you spent half an hour painstakingly selecting it!). As a creative, hopefully you’re passionate about the work you produce. This, plus a sound explanation as to how your choice of words enhance the story, might be enough to swing a decision. Remember, personality and professionalism need not be strangers.
4. Keep it simple
For a while, I believed that interesting writing had to be intellectually impressive, but I’m gradually learning when it’s time to put the thesaurus back on the shelf.
In medical copywriting, you are not trying to convince your reader that you’re the next Charlotte Brontë. It has taken me a while to trust my own vocabulary, but I now appreciate the sweetness of simplicity and accept the fact that it does not equal stupidity.
What’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt in recent months? It takes skill to write, but it takes talent to write simply.
There you have it: goggles, flippers, a cap and snorkel.
If you’re considering a career in medical copywriting and are looking to get your creative juices flowing in an agency that values all ideas and voices, drop the AS&K recruitment team an email at Amy.Bremner@asandk.com
To read more about the perks of being an AS&Ker read our benefits blog here.