Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Fun With Content Writing

Let’s talk work. Have you ever heard of online copywriting or content writing? No? Here’s a definition:

A website content writer is an employee or a freelancer who specializes in providing relevant content for various websites. 

In human speech, this means people are paid to write thousands upon thousands of words of promotional text for your local restaurant, repair shop, or funeral company’s seedy website. I’m one of those people.

I write blog posts and website content about cleaning services, construction consultants, cannabis stores, limousine rentals, integral adjusters, online chatbots, cash counters, classic car restoration, ship repair companies, swimming pool equipment, overhead storage racks, and so on.

Sounds like ponderous work, doesn’t it? Nah, not at all. I actually have fun while writing this stuff. Read on to learn my secret. It’s deep stuff, I assure you.

Here’s a typical passage I’d write for a cleaning company:

There’s nothing worse than coming home after an exhausting day at work, only to discover you have a lot of tiring house cleaning waiting for you. Here at Horror Maids, we want to help you reclaim your leisure time by taking care of all that mopping and dusting for you. Reach out to us today and kick back while our cleaning superstars give you the gift of a sparkling clean home.

Here’s another one (sometimes they may appear in the same text together):

We’ll come right out and say it: cleaning is boring and tiring. Worse, it takes up the precious leisure time you could spend doing the things you love in the company of your friends and family. By outsourcing your cleaning to Horror Maids, you’ll not only be getting a pristine home, you’ll also have more time to focus on the things that truly matter. 

Variations of these paragraphs appear in hundreds of texts I wrote for dozens of cleaning companies. Imagine what a normal person would think if they unknowingly visited these websites and saw the exact same stuff written over and over again with slightly different phrasing. It’d be sort of creepy, wouldn’t it? Maybe there’s a horror story idea in there. But I digress.

So how do I make writing the same stuff every day even remotely amusing? Simple. I come up with the most insane over-the-top praise for mundane things, and I look for the juiciest places to drop F bombs.

So when I write this:

Reach out to us today and kick back while our cleaning superstars give you the gift of a sparkling clean home.

In my head it reads like this:

Reach out to us today and kick back while our cleaning demigods give you the miracle of a sparkling clean home.

Remember how, back in high school, the most idiotic stuff could crack you up during the final one or two classes because your mind was tired and your sense of humor has temporarily degenerated?

This is like that, except I’m all alone in my room, chuckling at my own bad jokes. The idea of using terms like godly, divine, Christlike, Oscar-winning, Arcadian, heavenly, luminous, angelic, miraculous, staggering, wondrous, magnificent, mind-blowing, etc., to describe cleaning ladies is a daily source of mirth for me. I love it.

But wait, it gets better. This:

We’ll come right out and say it: cleaning is boring and tiring. Worse, it takes up the time you could otherwise spend doing the things you love in the company of your friends and family.

Instantly becomes this in my mind:

Fuck cleaning. It takes up the precious leisure time you could otherwise spend drinking with your friends and family.

The thought of actually typing these sentences and submitting them to my bosses for review adds an extra layer of joy. Imagining the faces they’d make while reading, or the comments they’d leave, damn near makes me want to do it. Hell, I’m giggling as I write this.

As I said, deep stuff.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Matter of Aesthetics

Once upon a time, I had a blog.

It was devoted to the tabletop wargame, Warhammer 40k. I loved that game, and I loved writing battle reports describing the many grueling conflicts my trusty Space Marines had fought in. Looks-wise, it was all metallic grays and bright gray fonts and simple text-based buttons. I thought that blog looked pretty neat. I still do.

My friends disagreed, though. They thought it looked very early-2000s. I was okay with that. After all, it was devoted to an army of toy soldiers who fought other people's toy soldiers. Still, when I decided to start this blog, I figured I should choose a more professional-looking template.

And yet, after days of browsing WordPress and Blogger templates, I ended up cobbling together the one you're looking at right now. I love its minimalist design, big font, and dark gray backgrounds that are oh so easy on the eyes.

But why? Pre-designed themes are objectively better. I mean, look at these. Just look at them.

They're flawless. The images and the backgrounds and even the font seem destined to be together. It's all professionally arranged and designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. It's the online equivalent of those fancy designer apartments. Like this one:

If I saw this apartment in a movie or in a video game, I'd nod in approval. I'd rewind the scene to look at the details, or holster my in-game gun and just marvel at the aesthetic for a moment or two. I respect the time, money, and energy that went into making it look so good.

But would I actually live there? No chance. It looks unnatural to me. Like every color and piece of furniture was selected beforehand, and then all bought together. That's not how most people equip their homes.

Like the individuals who live in them, homes start out as blank slates and develop as they age. Some of the stuff in them is inherited, some is there because that's what the residents could afford, and some is a direct result of the residents' passions. You can learn a lot about a person just by looking at their home. That's how it ought to be.

Should websites follow the same logic? Not if they're supposed to represent a business or appeal to a mainstream audience. Writing is neither of those things, however. Fiction has always been and always will be a deeply personal thing. The brainchild of what the writer considers to be fun and meaningful. If it was any other way, books would be mass produced by faceless corporations, rather than penned by individuals whose urge to write was stronger than their need to socialize, or pursue more lucrative endeavors, or consume entertainment created by others.

With this in mind, I thought: screw it. You aren't reading this blog because you want a fine-tuned corporate product. You're here because you read some of my stuff, and you enjoyed or hated it enough to seek me out. Showing you a face caked in makeup would be a form of lying, and I strive to keep my lying to a minimum.

Besides, if you can stomach the things I write, I'm pretty sure you can appreciate an early-2000s blog aesthetic too.