Meditations of a Copywriter

Content Marketing

Ever since high school, I've turned to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius lived almost 2,000 years ago. He was a great Emperor, general and statesman of the Roman Empire.

Whether at governing home or locked in the horns of battle, he wrote little reminders to himself based on the stoic philosophy.

So profound were these aphorisms they were bound up into twelve books known as the Meditations. I recently "upgraded" my dog-eared floppy of the Meditations for a hardbound book.

It's been the companion of many high-flyers since their wider publication centuries ago. I too have some meditations on copywriting I've inked over the past year and a bit, and I'd like to post them here for my own and others' reference.

Meditations of a Copywriter

  • This isn't God's work. You're not a "word wizard," a "verb herder," or anything remotely like it. You're a copywriter and you seek to improve your craft every day. There is no end to your apprenticeship. Total mastery is sailing on a ship of fools.
  • Passion sells. I find myself enlivened talking about my work unlike ever before. I talk for hours about it with clients and colleagues. This is your advantage. Use it.
  • If you can't help, add or improve, walk away. Some people turn to me for advice and new words when they don't need them. It is not my place to sell people words they don't need.
  • Cut always. There's rarely a good piece of work that could be great with a few choice edits. Edit always; cruelly and judiciously.
  • Best is the enemy of truly good. If you find you could've phrased something better or wittier months after the fact, let it be. If you didn't slouch about with the time allowed and did the best you could do, take comfort.
  • Let things settle. Words don't improve with age, but an editor's eye does. Take the time to embrace the process. Draft, draft again and finish the journey.
  • Improve yourself when distracted. Sometimes the mental tank will empty. That's fine. Don't read rehashed listicles, faff about on twitter or endlessly scroll Tumblr. If you need a distraction, read or do something of substance.
  • Rhetoric is eternal. Rhetoric and persuasion has been around since the time of Marcus Aurelius himself, even before. Don't be fooled by newfangled "silver bullets," and "super sales words," because they aren't. You and your clients will be left wanting.
  • Miracles don't happen behind a desk. Get out of the house and expand your route. You'll be surprised at what you can find. The world will enrich you in one way or another.
  • Simplicity is key. No one cares if you rattle off $10 words in $100 lots. People aren't impressed. People are impressed when you flip the mundane into something profound.
  • Look at the bright side. You're doing what you love, every day. When things get tough, push harder. Persistence will pay.

Do you have meditations? What are they?

Tom Valcanis


My name is Tom Valcanis and I'm the proprietor at I Sell Words. I sell words because my words sell! I'm a copywriter and content author with a background in journalism. I write content for web, print and all things that need words. I Sell Words is about writing your words right.