Copy Talk

Interview with a Writer: Jenny Nicholson

Getting ahold of a new mom is never easy. Her to-do list is always longer than yours and covered in far more bodily fluids. So I’m pretty excited that Jenny Nicholson, a North Carolina-based copywriter and recent bringer of life, said yes to this project.

On top of her day job and baby, Jenny also writes a blog (about balancing her day job and baby): mamaneedsabigidea.com. Someone told me once not to bring up work-life balance when interviewing at an ad agency—it suggests you’re “not committed”—so clearly Jenny’s blog is a breath of fresh air on an otherwise overlooked topic.

BR: What kind of writer are you?

JN: For pay, I’m an advertising copywriter. For fun (and far more occasionally than I’d like) I’m a creative writer. I especially love short fiction.

BR: How did you get wherever you are now?

JN: I started out as a proofreader at my current agency. Eventually, people got tired of me telling the writers how to do their job and they decided to give me a job as a writer. I haven’t looked back since.

BR: What advice would you give to someone trying to improve their writing?

JN: You can’t be a great writer without being an avid reader. Flow, style, grammar, fluency—all of those things you learn by reading others who write well. I like to say that writing is the only skill you learn through osmosis.

The other thing you need to do is actually write. Which is harder than you’d think. One nice thing about writing for a living is that I’m forced to do it, whether I like to or not.

My favorite book about writing is Anne Lamott’s Bird by BirdShe has tons of great, practical advice to help improve your writing, but she also talks honestly (and, in my experience, accurately!) about some of the emotional stuff that comes with writing.

BR: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve worked on?

JN: Several years ago, I did a campaign for Virgin Mobile called Let’s Have Txt. It let people have PG-13 sexual innuendo-laden text sessions with live operators. I was pretty picky about how to walk the line just right so it would be fun and not creepy. As a result, I ended up working as one of the operators for 14 hours a day for almost two weeks. It was the weirdest, most awkward, most entertaining thing I’ve ever done. You can check it out if you want.

BR: What’s something you’d like to work on in the future?

JN: Ever since my middle school days when I was obsessed with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’ve been interested in the idea of adding interactivity and personalization to books in an unexpected way. The iPad makes this easy, of course. But there are some awesome examples of people doing this with real books. Press Here is one example and my new daughter received one of these absolutely genius books as a welcome-to-the-world gift.

This post is part of Interview with a Writer, a series trying to figure out what being a writer today looks like. Want to suggest a writer for me to feature? Is that writer you? Get in touch.

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