At the most abstract level, the best way to think about what I do is that it’s like recycling scrap metal. You begin with a random assortment of all kinds of stuff. You then apply a lot of energy to it in the right way, and in the end, you turn it into something useful.
I do the same thing when I write. The subject may be an attorney’s bio, a practice group description, a white paper or almost anything else. Whatever it is, my job is to understand it, organize it, and then present it as a finished product that’s lucid, easy to read, organized and communicates facts and ideas in the right way for the right audience.
Often, the raw material I start with is kind of a mess. The lawyer who’s bio I’m writing may have no idea what to say about himself. Or a white paper may begin with a disorganized jumble of random information. An article may be about an incredibly boring topic, or one that’s really, really complex. Whatever it is, my job is to fix it, and make it good.
Sometimes, it’s also to communicate more subtle concepts that can’t be straightforwardly expressed. If I’m writing about a very senior attorney —the person you call in for really big, bet-the-company litigation — I have to make that point through word choice, tone and structure rather than attempting to simply say it. The real art of copywriting is expressing things while working inside a very tight framework, communicating through suggestion rather than directly. Andrew Wyeth said once that what makes a painting work is what isn’t in it. Often, copywriting works the same way.