Are we limited – or empowered – by our experience?

Tonight I chatted in a Hoxton pub – yes, I am *that* trendy – with another copywriter.

The guy is running as a self-employed operation and has very strong feelings about what writing ‘is’. No compromises. Be true to yourself. If people don’t like it, then move on.

Part of me admires this. When I started out as a writer, this is what I thought life would be: that people would accept my opinion and damn them if they don’t. That only by following my own path would I become employworthy. But over the years I’ve come to believe that writing is really expressing ‘an opinion’. It relates closely to my idea, recently expressed, that PR is ‘a truth’ (apologies for the self-reference there). It takes skill and judgement rather than gut reaction.

So for every example I discussed with him – for example, the difference between bloggers generally being unaccountable, and untrained in the distinction between the many shades of fact and opinion, versus journalists who need to be accountable, who ask questions and are able to tell the difference – he argued somewhat the opposite. It dawned on me that I was talking from experience, and he was talking about theory. I loved his theory, but I knew, in the real world, it wasn’t true.

So at what point do we take on board what our clients want us to say, and at what point do we push back? And do we do so from our gut instinct, as free thinkers – which is, after all, what people think writers are – or from our experience? In short, are we jaded corporate types, or realistic professionals?

As is so often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. We have to trust our instincts as communicators in every instance, but take into account certain realities of the world. If we were artists, we would create our own briefs: but the real world – one in which we have to earn a crust and necessarily compromise and act as consultants rather than experts – says that will seldom be the case.

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