Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writer Wednesday — Amber Cleave — "Writing is a process based on progress, not perfection."

Each Wednesday I feature a fellow writer, and not just ad folks. I’m interested in anyone who makes a living stringing together words. Their answers are unfiltered, so I may not always agree with every last bit of advice. After all, what works for one writer may not work for another. But we all need fresh ideas and perspectives to keep growing. Interested? Please email

Amber Cleave does email marketing and customer retention for VerticalResponse in San Francisco (man, do I miss that city). Like me and more and more of the advertising and marketing folks I meet, she got her start in journalism before crossing over.

Copywriting Blog
Twitter:  @Gldnamby

What’s your writing focus or specialty?

My writing specialties are marketing, email, and web copywriting (mostly for games and software).

Writers often take winding career paths. What led you here?

In college I majored in English—mostly because I didn’t know what else to major in! Writing was always something that came naturally to me and that I thoroughly enjoyed. So English seemed to be the best solution. People always asked, “What are you going to be, a teacher?” And although I didn’t have any intentions of being a teacher, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree.

After college I moved back home to Half Moon Bay, CA, and literally walked into The Half Moon Bay Review Magazine and Newspaper office to see if they had any openings. I was in luck; they did! I contracted with them on and off for a few years, and then got a journalism internship at The Mountain View Voice.

From there I made a shift into email marketing at Electronic Arts, and loved it so much that I then went to an Email Marketing company in San Francisco called VerticalResponse. Although my direct title is Retention Marketing Specialist, I consider myself a sort of resident copywriter. I write everything from blog posts, to education guides, to web and landing page copy, to weekly newsletters and emails.

Tell us a little about your creative process.

My process varies a lot based on what type of piece I’m writing. Writing an article vs. a marketing email is very different, but I always begin the same way - brainstorming. I love a good brainstorm session. I write down everything that comes to mind, and essentially come up with a whole stream of consciousness. From there I cross off ideas that are way too out there, and narrow down my direction and scope. It helps me to view writing as a puzzle. It’s placing the right words together in the right order to most effectively communicate with your audience. In the case of marketing, it’s trying to compel the customer to act.

What do you do when you’re stuck? Any tricks for getting unstuck?

When I’m stuck I usually walk away for a while, and come back with a clear head later on. Writing can be very tiresome and mentally draining, so I can really only write well for a few hours at a time. Then I need a break.

Any side projects? If so, how do you make time for them?

Earlier this year I wrote for Suite101, and I also freelanced an article for
. These are things I do after work or on the weekend.

It’s also important to me to continue my education and keep growing my skill set, so I’m excited to be attending the DMA’s Creative & Copywriting for Print & Web Certification in NY in November. Maybe I’ll see some of you fellow writers there!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

The best writing advice I’ve ever been given is that you don’t have to be a perfectionist to be a good writer. Sometimes a piece can be quick and dirty and still come out really well. Writing is a process based on progress, not perfection. It gets better with age!

What’s one thing you know now that you’d wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

No idea is a bad idea, but sometimes things need to be refocused or rewritten. I used to take edits very personally, but now I view them as constructive criticism that can turn something good into something great.

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