To class yourself as a good writer, I think it’s imperative that you be able to write any genre of material, from formal, educational, corporate, creative, biographical, sharp and informative, to informal, relaxed, first person, third person or even slang style – but most importantly, you must be able to deliver humour. Any writer will tell you that humourous writing is perhaps the most difficult to create successfully because you always have to bear in mind who your audience is, and find some middle point of commonality in funny situations, or dialogue, without falling into the cheezy or slapstick trap.
Every now and then I like to dabble with humourous writing, be it whacky or otherwise, mostly to amuse myself. In this particular piece I was drawn into contemplating whether you could write funny and clever body copy using mainly clichés. It is in the form of a fictitious ‘prologue’ for a fictitious book about my life. I really enjoyed writing it because I found it funny and entertaining to craft, but whether or not you find it funny, is entirely up to you.
LIFE IS FULL OF PITFALLS FOR THE UNWARY, OR HOW I LIVED MY LIFE AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT.
Prostituting myself for a living as I do, you can understand the obsession I have with words, phrases, semantics and reference books. When I say, ‘prostituting myself’ I must explain. I don’t prostitute myself in the widely understood meaning of the word, but simply put, as an advertising agency copywriter, I prostitute myself everyday as a writer.
Unlike your average ‘tortured artist’ writer, my lot is not to agonize and sweat over a punishing 1 000-word a day regimen in pursuance of that elusive world blockbuster bestseller, guaranteed to propel them from their lives of abject poverty and misery, to lives of insolent wealth and misery. I write words for other people. I’m known as a copywriter or pen jockey, or perhaps more pertinent in this day and age, a computer jockey, churning out pay off lines for umpteen varieties of ‘new and exciting’ products that no one wants anyway. Or writing copy for brochures about achingly boring companies, populated entirely with achingly boring stuffed shirts. Of course all these companies are ‘innovative, with ‘state-of-the-art’ equipment and ‘world-class’ standards, whose staff have no other desire in life other than to deliver ‘customer service excellence’. Best of all are the accounts executives who deliver briefs from their clients for ‘exciting new angles’ and funky copy for their feminine hygiene products or toilet-seat protectors.
You can see why, by any sane person’s standards there is no more apt description of what I do, other than sheer prostitution – I do what I do for money, I do it well to please my clientele so they go away satisfied, and hopefully return for more – as soon as possible – for which they will pay me again. Honestly the only satisfaction I experience from my lot in life is when the bank balance eases back into the black, reflecting another satisfied customer’s contribution to my threateningly ever-present overdraft.
So you might ask, what am I doing writing this book? Well, going back to my captivation with reference books and other tools of my trade, I must mention that on a sojourn into one of my favourite refuges from the ravishes of fate and fortune – the local bookstore – I came across a real gem, “ Chambers Cliché’s and How to Avoid them”. What a masterpiece of a find, fascinating it certainly was, just paging idly through it. I couldn’t wait to take it home with me and devour every delicious morsel. At first it was the sheer fascination that held me, delving as it did into the origins of the clichés, the alternatives and then the ratings! Each cliché was rated from one to five stars depending on its ability to inflict the greatest injury. One star was classed as ‘mild’, 2 star, ‘highly unoriginal’, 3 star, ‘irritating’ …and then the best ones – 4 star, ‘toe curling’ with a 5 star classed as ‘diabolical’. I was totally addicted and couldn’t put it down until I’d utterly ravished its contents and sucked it dry. This wonderful language that I paid homage to was slowly washing away my shame of prostitution. It drew me in until I was totally immersed – and then with a jolt I realized why it had mesmerized me so much – it dawned on me that my whole life was and always had been an endless parade of clichés! And yes, humiliating and humbling as it was, I could even rate it and the clichés that mirrored it on the same 5-star scale! That was it – I was a living and breathing cliché book. It was why I was spellbound and obsessed with it … what was I to do? No money for a therapist… I’d need my whole life again to retell my life to a therapist, but I needed to tell it to someone, I knew that, instinctively, that would be my catharsis… so that’s where you come in….congratulations.