Recently, another far more cerebral copywriter than I am asked me, “What kind of a writer are you?”
I stared at her blankly, not knowing how to answer. I’ve never been a copywriter with a secret screenplay, collection of comical Haikus or coming-of-age zombie novel in the works. Since I primarily write ads, my words come in short sentences and 30-second time blocks.
And unlike a lot of writers I know who are voracious readers, I don’t pour over Hemingway or even the #1 reco on Oprah’s book list. Nope, I read, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” and “Geronimo Stilton, Mouse Detective.” Out loud. I also enjoy Allure and Food & Wine magazine, in luxurious three to four minute bouts of solitude, while sitting on the toilet.
Don’t be jealous.
But then a very astute, inspired answer came to me:
“I want my writing to make people cry or pee.”
Actually, my first answer was “I want to make liquid come out of other people’s bodies.” But I had to quickly rephrase that, for obvious reasons. That’s E.L. James' territory. And nobody’s reading that stuff for the amazing literary quality.
(Okay, yes, I did read the entire Shades of Grey series. But as an approaching middle-aged suburban mom, I had to read them so I’m up on popular culture. Had to.)
My intellectual writer friend was super impressed, as you can imagine.
I’m kidding. She wasn’t.
But that’s okay. Because by answering her question, I have become more aware of what I'm putting down on paper. The best kinds of writing elicit emotions from the reader (or listener or watcher.) They connect on a visceral level. Otherwise, it’s just words bouncing off your brain. So if I’m always shooting for emotional extremes, to hit someone’s funny bone or yank at their heartstrings, I’ll occasionally get there. Because, let’s be honest - tears and pee aren’t easy to achieve. Unless we’re talking babies, weddings or jumping on a trampoline after giving birth to two 10-pounders. Or so I’ve heard.
So even if my writing doesn’t always reach bodily liquid territory, I’m at least hopefully creating a chuckle. Or a knowing sigh. Or a smirk. I can live with a smirk.
But to me, tears and pee mean ultimate success.
Pretty sure that’s a Hemingway quote.