Sex, Fun, Money… and More Sex

Monday, 9:27pm
Reno, NV
Oops, I did it again…”  (Britney, God love her…)


I’m on a roll here, grabbing criminally-ignored posts from the blog archives…

… and re-posting them prominently, so you criminally ignore them no longer.  With a few minor edits, of course, tailoring the prose to fit today’s quirky needs for advice.  (Hey, you don’t fit into your old high school jeans anymore, either, you know.)

Here, we have another dangerously-tasty post from not too long ago… which, I believe, requires no explanation other than to say it’s some serious insight into the writer’s brain.

You do NOT want to venture into this quagmire without a guide.  Which is what I’ve written here:

A  short “guide to the writer’s mind”

Not exactly a hot Disneyland ride, but if you’re in business it’s some wicked-valuable info.

So, indulge, and enjoy (if you dare):

I’m gonna need your feedback on this.

See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude…

…because this outsider status forces me to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).

This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.

And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, most of the time.

It can get spooky, climbing into the psyche of your market.

Still, though, it is, ultimately, exquisite fun. This gig as a professional writer — figuring out how to get people’s attention, influencing decisions that will change their lives in profound ways, and weaving stories and glory out of blank pages — can be more invigorating than leaping off Half Dome with a tiny parachute.

I’m sure you don’t believe me. Few do on this matter.

But the raw truth is… good copywriters work in the deep grooves of Real Life, where it’s strange and dangerous and… well, fun.

Getting into the head of your prospect is a critical part of the sales process, but it is only ONE part. For a comprehensive guide on ALL of the steps to creating killer copy (whether you write it yourself, hire it out, or get AI to write it for you), check out the Simple Writing System right here.

At the next seminar you go to, check out the bar in the hotel. You’ll find the best writers in a gaggle near the back of the room, rolling on the floor and holding their bellies from laughing so hard.

What’s so funny?  Everything.

Writers are like M*A*S*H doctors on the front lines — so deep in the mire of human existence, they need to laugh to keep from going mad. Because the world is one batshit-crazy joint…

… and they are neck-deep in it, getting up-close-and-personal with the insane stuff that decent folks try their best to ignore.

To an observer’s eyes, writers can seem irrepairably neurotic. And share a tear for the spouse:  For both the male and female of the species “Writer Erectus”, it takes a super-smart, confident, and wry partner to keep a relationship going. There’s no such thing as “settling into a rut” when half the marriage is a writer.

You better have the chops to deal with serious “wild and crazy” intellectual (and, sometimes, physical) acrobatics.  It might help to think about writers as being semi-tame monkeys, itching to revert to chandelier-swinging at the slightest provocation.

Except, of course, for those uncomfortably looooooong periods where the writer is staring off into space, or so transfixed by the Word document in front of him that you almost want to check for a pulse to make sure he hasn’t left the corporeal realm entirely.

From deep good fun, to deep near-comatose thinking.

It’s a roller coaster, trying to befriend, live or work with one.

Which may be why writers seldom get any respect.

Which also may be why most of my closest friends and confidants… are also writers. We “get” each other.

We don’t have to explain why we consider writing so much… fun.

Even when it’s painful.

Like I said… we’re weird. Not in step with the rest of the world.

And yet… we MUST connect with the rest of the world, to be able to write sales copy. So we become amateur shrinks, rookie hypnotists, gluttons for inside info… and world-class students of human behavior.

Normal people can’t be bothered with observing other humans closely. Too much trouble, and it’s hard, anyway.

Better to just adopt a convenient world view — “us” and “them” — and be done with it. Be a little loving, a little hating, do business, mow the lawn and take your kids to church. Hope for the best, fear the unexpected, kill all messengers with bad tidings.

Writers, however, will shrivel and die when forced to be “normal”.

Screw that. We read what we like (even if it’s nasty and especially if it’s prohibited)… we think bizarro thoughts that would bring normal people to their knees in horror… we sing out loud and fall hopelessly in love… and we don’t notice the sun setting — we observe the dappled thunderheads huddled over frozen mountains, swallowing the blazing orb hungrily, giddy for the starry onrush of night.

So, yeah. Fun, with life, with words, with living as deep and fearlessly as possible… if the gig wasn’t rife with these things, most of us would be doing something else.

And money?

Well, for most of history, scribes were slaves. Then (big upgrade) they were groveling servants of the ruling class — never equal, never respected much.

Then — when the novel appeared in the early 19th century — a funny thing happened: Writers started earning money for their efforts.

And, sometimes, the wealth accumulated. Mark Twain was a rich and respected world-traveler. Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Alexander Dumas used their notoriety as story-crafters to rise above their normal “station” in life.

By the time direct response advertising became a thriving industry (early twentieth century), the utter importance of writers made them minor rock stars among advertisers.

Now, with the global reach of the Web, a guy who learns to write well — to communicate, persuade, and close the deal — will have to struggle NOT be have piles of money thrown his way.

And yet…

… and yet, as my friend Rich Schefren observed in a recent chat: “John, it’s ironic that you — the guy who helped so many of us get our start in marketing and using words to sell — seem perpetually trapped in what is viewed as the most UN-SEXY part of the business world.”

And he’s right.

I hate him for pointing it out… but he’s right.

It’s probably part of the appeal that keeps me in the game. I thrive on being an “outsider”. I get itchy whenever I’m too “accepted”, or feel myself slipping into the mainstream. Don’t like it. Will do something anti-social to break rapport, and stir shit up.

Did you know that you can get some of my best biz boosting tips for FREE? Yep, it’s true. Just sign up for my report and emails right here.

If my slovenly little corner of the biz world ever truly became “sexy” enough to gain total mainstream acceptance, in fact… my head would implode.

And bats would fly out, and little tiny monsters would scrabble from the steaming wreck of my neck, where just a wee dangling smidgen of ape-brain was left, snarling and spitting…

Professional ad writing is not sexy.

(With all due exceptions for Don Draper in “Mad Men”.)

It’s not raiding pension funds for profit… it’s not gaming the stock market for windfalls… it’s not gory entertainment like cage fighting… and it’s not sexy like the “magic” of launches and social networking scams and posting funny YouTube shit is sexy.

The irony kills me, every day.

In Hollywood, moguls gnash their teeth and directors consult astrologers while investors shovel money at box-office-boosting stars in a never-ending attempt to make their movies “huge hits”.

They do everything, in fact, except respect the ONE thing that truly matters: The fucking script.

You know — what the WRITERS produce.

Same with business. I teach freelancers to walk into a client’s office and OWN the situation. Charge a gazillion bucks (payable immediately), and make the client like it. Set cushy deadlines that please you, order folks around, and generally run things like an asshole.

Why? Because you’ve got to smack clients upside the head like that — and sometimes BE an asshole — to get the respect you require to do a good job.

Because while your skills at writing are the FOUNDATION of success in every single project out there… most clients refuse to admit it.

This hard-core “own the joint” attitude is 180-degrees opposite of how most freelancers go about dealing with clients. They crawl into a new client’s office on their knees, begging to be hurt and whipped and abused. They accept “vendor” status, and get paid on 60-day invoices. They allow their best stuff to be trampled and rewritten and shat on by lesser mortals… because they’re closer to the old slave scribes than to the Web millionaires using copy to get rich.

You want sexy?

How about having fun and making money.

You know — like the folks who bother to learn the deep, dark art of viciously-effective copywriting.

Okay, I know there are lots of members of the opposite sex who realize how super-bad-thexy writers truly are. Most of the writers I know aren’t widely appreciated in the biological pool, but within certain groups they are lust-candy. To a certain part of the population, brains being used for bad behavior… just so we have a good story to write about later… is the sexiest thing going.

But in the broader scheme of things, writers are always going to be outcasts.

Which brings me back to that table in the back of the bar at the seminar.

Who cares about respect, when you get to hang out with the smartest, funniest, most interesting folks in the room all the time?

I like the money that arrives from knowing how to write. I love the fun that comes with seeing the world differently than almost everyone else.

And I’ll just continue to be ironically pleased with a sexiness that only I and a few others seem to see.

It’s a very secret club. You earn admission only by embracing the craft, and being demanding of yourself in getting really, really good.

For those of us in the back of the room, it’s the ONLY club worth being in. We’d belong even if the money wasn’t stupid-huge.

To the writers out there: Can I get some testimony? How do you guys experience the frustration of not being understood, of working alone so much of the time, of owning a brain that goes to amazing places other people can’t even dream about?

I know that none of you would give up your hard-won chops as a writer, not for all the money in the world. We hold all the true power in life, and in the culture.  Pen mightier than the sword and all that.

And in business, too — it’s the writer who makes the magic happen.

Still, what do you guys think? Am I being too dramatic here? Not dramatic enough?

Love to hear from y’all…

Stay frosty,


P.S. Two last thoughts:

Thought #1. As always, if you crave knowing what writers know about the world and about business…

… just click here to see what’s available through the Simple Writing System.  That’s your first step — get the inside scoop, and learn the basics of quickly becoming the best writer you’re capable of becoming.  (Plus the sneaky advanced-yet-simple stuff filling this system that can make you ridiculously-good, in case you decide to go pro).

That’s your ticket to the club, so to speak.

Thought #2. And if you’re already a pro writer,  you’re in luck…

… cuz the revamped “Freelance Manual” is now available.  Which is all about the specifics of living the good life as a freelance copywriter:  Finding and managing clients… getting paid the big bucks… and grabbing your seat at the head of the Feast Of Life, where the adventures are fast and furious.


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  • Bruce Prokopets says:

    I always explain to my friends that I’m a marketing consultant…but writing is the grind. Everybody has a “grind” part of their job, you know, the actually work. My partners is a marketing consultant too, but his grind is managing our sales floor. Point being, many of my friends don’t understand how little writing has to do with words and grammar. If I just said I was a writer they would think I was a loser sitting at home perpetually writing his memoir. I have to explain that I’m a marketer FIRST…and then the grind produces a deliverable or tangible result. It’s at THAT point that anything about being a writer ceases to be sexy to them and they lose interest. It wasn’t romantic enough in my terms. But I get paid way more than staff writers, critics, and most journalists. Don’t even get me started on fiction writers and poets. But, to me, there is still sexiness and poetry in what I do. But no one gets it…and if they ever did…I’d be out of a job. So I’m cool with it.

    • John Carlton says:

      Well, other writers get it, Bruce. That’s why we hang…

      I tried writing fiction for a while. Went to some writer’s workshops. As soon as the other writers found out I was actually making money with my ad writing, they hounded me. I realized where the real gig was (and I’ve kept my fiction as a hobby, as it should be, on the side), and came home to the biz world like returning to a lost lover. Baby, I missed ya!

      If you can’t get respect, raise your prices. That’s my motto…

      • Abey John says:

        “If you can’t get respect, raise your prices. That’s my motto…”

        Oh man John, I am taking that all the way to the bank – thank you. I can see it happening already. I raised the prices and am gettin a flood of inquiries.

        • John Carlton says:

          You owe me a testimonial, then, Abey. Contact us through the support site, and Anne will get right on it. (We’re a small shop — all support is handled by one person, Anne, and she has a direct line to me.)

          Keep us in the loop on your progress, too. Go get ’em…

  • Spot on John. In fact, I was talking to Stan at our crazy writers party in San Diego weeks ago. Hanging out with all of the writers was like coming home after a tour of duty at Mos Eisley spaceport. (You know… that wreched hive of scum and villainy from Star Wars?)

    We ARE different. And until a budding writer ebraces that fact… they will never live up to their potential.

    Face it… we’re nuts.

    It’s ironic that we are in charge of simplifying the complicated… and persuading others to do the right thing… but being deeply understood and appreciated by the masses?

    Forget it.

    And we wouldn’t have it any other way. While we may know many people… we are comfortable with few. And most of the time they are like us.

    There is danger though. The kind of insight we have on the human race can be a double edged sword. We love harder, laugh louder, feel more.

    We are empaths.

    We feel the hurts of the world… and cannot escape them.

    But again… it’s who we are. It’s in our very DNA.

    And THIS mutant appreciates the gift of being a writer every day… From morning until night. (And especially when I sleep… almost all writers cherish sleep… well, except Kilstein, but he’s another story…)

    No… the “average” person is not who I want to be. No self respecting writer should settle for that.

    Don’t let it happen to you.

    You’ll always feel the need to swing from a chandelier or two, post inappropriate pitcures on Twitter, or belly laugh until you cramp.

    Welcome home.

    Mike Morgan

    • John Carlton says:

      Ah, yes, those ever-present inappropriate moments of sharing too much with ill-gotten photos. Good times, Mike, good times…

      Thanks for the note, man.

      • karen leung says:

        John, Stan and the entire Writer gangs,

        I had so much fun and really learnt a lot from other writers. I’m a writer too deep in my blood. I appreciate other writers and want to hang out with all writers. John, just like what you say… Words are like swords. Despite the painful reality of life, no monetary value on this earth can compare to a piece of good writing. Sometimes, I hate to think about selling my copywriting to some gals or guys who do not appreciate literature and poetry but they have a bunch of green cash. How awful it is! I can feel the fear and numbness running through my spin. Anyway, I was greatly appreciated to be there. I really hope I can have enough money to join the mastermind group. It is so much fun to me just thinking about having all the writers together locked in a room together and brainstorming about writing and nothing else.
        Thanks a bunch, Karen

  • Timmy says:

    (John slammed my head into the back wall of the bar that is facebook and politely mentioned that I might post my comments here instead of there.)

    Brilliant post. Many of the best times I’ve ever had were in a dark bar with other writers, riffing off of the humanity that was aimlessly wandering about in front of us like a panacea… all not even knowing what it is that we misfits found so damn amusing.

    Observe more.

  • Sharon A says:

    Right on about writers, John—I’ve been one in some fashion for most of my life. I haven’t hit the big time yet, but I sure have fun with it.
    (I pity my poor husband, who not only got a writer, but one with a minor TBI and a chronic illness thrown in. It makes for explosive times, especially when I’m on the computer trying to write!)
    I’ve been on the fringes most of my life, and I’m quite comfortable hanging out there. I prefer it to “normal” life, which is way too boring. You just can’t be yourself when you’re “normal”. (Plus you miss out on meeting the really cool people.) I’ve had a reputation for being eccentric since my living-in-the-car years in my 20s, and I’m fine with that. Means I can get away with just about anything. 😉

    • John Carlton says:

      To be a writer is to get in touch with your sensitive, caring, eccentric, completely batshit and occasionally dangerous inner bad self. I wonder what it was like hanging with scribes back in the days of cuneiform tablets and sticks… or drinking mead with medieval hacks…

      Probably the same as today.

      Thanks for the note, Sharon.

  • Sex, Love, and Writers

    As “The Love Linguist” I love writers and words.

    Everyone knows that my official trademark is The LOVE BUCKET but the fact is, John does not call it by its official name; he calls it the Sex Bucket.

    Why did John give this post the title of ‘Sex, Fun, Money… and More Sex’ ?

    Because as a topic SEX and LOVE are HOT.
    Writers flock to this stuff and so does the average Joe.

    Personally, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE writers. The folks who go through John’s Simple Writing course can hone their skills and become better writers. Now, for me that it is a super huge turn-on.

    There is truly a dark art of viciously-effective copywriting as John suggests. The video only stuff often misses the finely tuned words that are crafted by great writers whether a sales letter or a script.

    Some of my favorite folks are copywriters. The good ones tell the story. The great ones have you so hooked and aroused you can’t say no if the subject matter is anywhere in your realm of desire.

    Now, that’s sexy!

    Sherrie Rose
    The Love Linguist

  • Selise says:

    I am but a wee babe in the world of copy writing, having only started in November but already making a living from it.

    I’ve always been…oh…weird, different, entertaining and even intimidating (so I was told…way to blow a girl off dude)and the fact that I now channel that weirdness and write for a living still blows my mind.

    I read your blog every morning John, Gary Halbert’s Newsletter too – and it’s comforting to know that beyond this lone computer screen in an empty house there are people just like me!

    I sure as hell never want to be normal. But I could definitely go a beer (8:52am is a respectable time, right?). I’ll meet you at the back of the bar.

  • Trounce.
    The things you do to my brain, John.
    I, too, spied MDM’s comment on my wall — so had to come reading.
    Yah, all that weirdness — writers are the semi-shamans of the industrial age.

    Now, where’s my rattle ?

    • John Carlton says:

      Full-on shamans, more likely. Ancient “wise men” used knowledge as mystical power… today, “wise asses” use knowledge to persuade, and our “magic” is just plain old storytelling chops…

  • Palyn Peterson says:

    Writing! Oh writing… You sexy beast.. the only thing that clarifies my thoughts and solidifies my life. My thoughts are so fleeting, so fast, so effin’ weird – it’s never until I take pen to paper that focus becomes a direction … Nay, a VECTOR.

    Slinging some badass wordsmithing gives me the same effervescent exhilaration as jamming a monster riff on my Gibson SG.

    Journaling, to do lists, copy, thinking “outloud” with my hand – the pen is my chisel, the pad is my block.

    I always start with handwritten material THEN type it into the computer. When it comes time to edit, I *have* to print it out and grab my pen again. it’s feels quite literally like editing/writing with pen and paper activates more areas of my brain than pure computer work does. I didn’t figure that one out until a few years ago, unfortunately. The improvements have been dramatic.

    John, I’m curious, do you usually stay on the computer, do you prefer the pen, or do you usually bounce between the two for any given project?

    • John Carlton says:

      I bounce. Usually write out notes, then type, then make notes on the manuscript, and repeat. Just like the old days…

      Halbert, btw, didn’t type at all. Claimed he knew how, but his primary way of writing was pen on clean legal pad. Something to consider when you think about what it means to “write”…

      • Sharon A says:

        Hi John,
        I had to jump in—this comment reminded me of a gentleman I know who tries to convince me to write on a computer whenever he happens to see me. (We are in the same writer’s group). He believes I am missing out on technology’s benefits (NOT!)as well as being hopelessly behind the times. I have seen him shudder in fascinated horror when he sees my pages of chicken scratch, complete with scribbles and re-writings. But I can’t keep from laughing because he’s just so darn funny about it.
        At one of our recent gatherings, he tried to shame me in front of the group. He eyeballed my pages with his usual incredulous look, raised an eyebrow, and said, “What on earth IS that mess?” loud enough for the whole group to hear. I answered it was a brand new font called The Written Word, and suggested he try it sometime. That apparently shut him up, because I’ve heard nothing since. Works for me…
        I think best with a pen in my hand. That mind-hand connection is lost on a keyboard. Nothing beats that physical feeling of writing words on a page. It’s better than sex…well, almost. 😉

  • This is one of my favorite all-time posts here JC.

    Made me smile.

    It’s all 100% true too.

    You know, I spent my whole life thinking I was weird and just didn’t fit in anywhere.

    But as soon as I got into this writing gig and met a few of the brethren, things drifted into place.

    Turns out I fit in just fine with the rest of the weird ones. And we’re the cool kids after all. Who’da thunk?

    These days I genuinely pity people who don’t have the insight, deep thought and zest for life (on every level) that comes hard-wired into most of us freaky writer bastards.

    And you’re right, all the money in the world couldn’t buy that from me.

    Thanks for bringing this post to the fore, it’s been a bright spot in my day.


  • Amed Hazel says:

    Man I loved being at the Action Seminar, like a kid with candy. Other people were just like me. It gave my wife a break from the constant torture of hearing me ramble in half finished ideas all day.

    To get more respect raise your fees, damn I love it.

  • Colin says:


    I love this post. It’s always nice when the Big Cheese comes out and openly confesses we all writers are bat-shit crazy. Validating for all of us.

    As for dealing with it… I think I’ve gotten used to it. Always been the outsider. Gave up on “getting in” on the cliques a long time ago… except of course, the copywriter cliques I’m in now. 🙂


  • Henry Bingaman says:

    I dunno… maybe you’re being a little over dramatic. You did say, “we observe the dappled thunderheads huddled over frozen mountains, swallowing the blazing orb hungrily, giddy for the starry onrush of night.”

    But aside from that…

    I think it’s the writing itself that makes writers different. There’s something about the mental discipline it takes to sit down and organize random thoughts into a coherent argument that rewires the brain.

    When writing a letter you have to form patterns and look for anomalies… so your brain starts to organize everything else into patterns and pick out the anomalies.

    When you’re constantly putting different ideas on paper you naturally become creative… I think it has something to do with the juxtaposition of all the ideas we stuff in our subconscious.

    And when you keep thinking of creative ideas, your mind gets rewired to crave more ideas, so you become a constant student of just about everything (especially bizarre or “forbidden” knowledge).

    The only real, fundamental difference between writers and the rest of the world is that writers write. Everything else comes from the writing.

    • Good point, Henry.

      I think what also makes us unusual is having minds that make connections and are highly associative.

      Like when my wife asks, “Do you have any raisins?” And I reply: “Only d’être.”

      It’s not intentional. Not sought out. It just flashes in my head the instant I hear: “Do you have any raisins.”

      Handy skill for a writer whose job is constantly to make the right word associations and unusual connections. Maybe not so much for a marriage. (“Just give me the damn raisins.”)

    • John Carlton says:

      At first, I was gonna disagree with you, Henry. But thinking about the “act” of writing as a cathartic element in developing a human mind… much like language changes a non-verbal baby into a highly communicative young person… may have a lot of merit. I wrote this post thinking about self-assigned writers — people who had chosen the path of constant research and studying. It could be that writing — and all the psycho-emotional stuff it triggers — is actually a growth process itself.

      I dunno. It’s worth exploring. But I do take issue with your notion that anyone can “naturally become creative”. The personality tests (Kolbe, Meyers-Briggs, etc) don’t back you up on that. Which means I’m VERY open to the idea of “nurtured creativity” — the act of waking up your Inner Creative Genius. Because it goes against common sense, and common scientific study. So right on, regardless — the main thing for each individual to do is come to grips with their own creativity and comfort with reality. You can still be a great marketing writer — selling tons of shit — without being a great “writer”. We’ve proven that over and over in the SWS. And many great authors (like Bukowski and Thompson) have proven that there’s no “one” way to write great literature.

      This is worth mulling for a long time. Thanks for the post.

      • I agree with Henry, in fact in Eben Pagan’s copywriting course, which is how I became familiar with you, he talks about writing training the brain.

        Mastering the unconscious is becoming conscious of what the unconscious is. The more we read, the more we program our unconscious.

        One of the most powerful psychology tools used by Nathaniel Branden is sentence completion. He loves exercises making people answer the same questions over and over.

        Henry, you’re spot on.

  • Geez John that is a great post…you have such a powerful way of expressing what’s going on “out there”… very “unique-o” brother… Glad you’re here to show us the pleasures of living life to the MAX.

    I’d value your opinion on my writing too… Hey, maybe you’ll like it:

    Thanks 🙂

  • John, I caught the Shine A Light Stones reference in the email. Good touch.

    Yep, it’s hard when you are coming from the writer’s viewpoint, and everyone in your life just looks at you as the “computer guy” or the “marketing guy” and they leave it at that.

    But I love getting on the phone with like-minded folks who get it.

    Getting deep into the psychology of ANY market is key–when most folks just don’t seem to have the time or patience for it.

    Possibly because they have not been exposed to how powerful learning what folks want and giving it to them really is.


  • James says:

    With writing like this, I would be seriously be surprised if you did not have more girlfriends than the Fonz.

    My writing is terrible which is why I want to hire my own scribe to help me.

  • Carlen says:

    Great post. But if writers really want to go sexy and get noticed, then you need to get bald… just like John’s boys Stan, Chris and Kevin. How else can you explain their success?

    Time for you to grow bald, and get back in the lead, John 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      No way. They’re shaven down, because they’re half-way to bald anyway. I’ve still got my youthful hairline, and will flaunt it til I die. I’m from the Hair generation, you know…

  • Al Kusy says:

    John, It is always a great experience to take advantage of your ranting blogs.

    I notice that all of the responses are from those that profess to being in the writing game in some form or other.

    I am not a writer and am retired from seven careers over a lifetime of 66 years. Some think that now I am 66 that I am two thirds of the proverbial beast. What I believe at this advanced age is that I have the second half of my life ahead of me.

    With this great amount of time, but nowhere to go for gainful employment —short of the local “choke ‘n puke” two blocks away, I am beginning to consider your “Simple Writing Course” which in itself is not a guarantee for self employment short of some divine intervention.

    I look forward to the day I can write a quarter as good as those that have posted before me, not to mention you -John. Keep blogging – Great cerebral stimulation!

  • Man, I’ve learned more about myself from this post than countless hours spent sitting at some shrink’s office listening to vain attempts at trying to describe what’s going on in my head.

  • Great post John, thanks!

    What’s frustrating is that prospective clients don’t understand the value of the copy (regardless of who writes it) to their bottom line, and for that matter – to their life, their success, their health and happiness and that of their family.

    Why is it the bane of my existence as a copywriter? Because as we writers know, the right words can make a huge difference in your income – and that really is the bottom line.

    Why then, is it so ridiculously difficult for most people in business to understand and embrace well-written copy? And why do I keep beating my head against the wall in an attempt to educate the masses? Honestly, as you say John, they should all be kissing our feet and begging to work with us for the value we provide. (BTW, I have very little ego for a writer. I’m talking about the collective “us” here.)

    As for possessing a brain that “goes to amazing places other people can’t even dream about?” I have a love-hate relationship with my brain. I’ve always been very analytical – I don’t know how to be any other way. My mind is constantly thinking in terms of marketing and creative ideas, and I too, am definitely a constant student of just about everything. I can’t even drive down the highway without analyzing the frigging billboards!

    In some ways, it feels like a curse. I’d love to look at the world through rose-colored glasses with nothing happening in my brain, just to feel what it’s like to walk around like that for a day or a week. Oh yeah – I think that’s called a vacation! LOL! For me, when I’m working, the only way to quiet the brain is to meditate – and believe me – it’s a daily challenge too!

    • John Carlton says:

      Okay, Bev, you’ve to grab the new Freelance Manual when we release it. One third of it is about managing clients… which is code for “controlling and unfairly dominating clients”, so you force them to respect, honor and PAY you the big bucks.

      Stay tuned…

      • Carlos says:

        That Sounds Like sum’tn i’d Be insterested in…

      • Carlos says:

        John, I signed up to your blog not long ago.

        To this point I have not found any greater pleasure than what I find in writing. Truth be told, I love what I write (I write for myself) and most everyone like my writing quite a bit.

        I think I will be getting your SWS soon! I plan to make a living out of it… I’m not sure it’s a good thought, but I guess I Only live once..might as well try it…any thoughts..?

  • robert says:

    I love reading what you writers write and talking about marketing and direct mail and so on…I only wish there was a dark back room were I could go and meet writers like you lot on here…because I know no-one who write and does marketing or knows anything about this business were I live…I feel a little lost some times but there’s one thing I can agree on, I’ve got one hell of a crazy mind like you lot therfore I’m not really alone.

    P.S (Post6) Selise good on you, I hope I make it off the starting blocks and make something of myself then meet you lot in the dark back rooms.

    • John Carlton says:

      Robert — seriously, man, dive into the Simple Writing System. You get to network with pro writers, beginning writers, and all kinds of other biz folks in all kinds of markets with all kinds of various experience levels.

      It sucks to be isolated.

      And there is ZERO excuse for it anymore, with the SWS around…

  • David Garfinkel says:


    I guess you’ve heard the old cliché one thousand times – Nobody wants to write, everyone wants to have writ.

    I remember back in my days as a magazine writer. Most humiliating experience imaginable — you go out to do a story, all cleaned up in your Sunday best (on a Wednesday), and you have this foul-smelling, rag-tag photographer trailing behind.

    The hot babe is polite and communicative, but her “closed for business” sign is prominent in the coochie-coochie-coo department.

    Then the fotog steps up to take her pic and it’s like they had just started pumping industrial-strength pheromones into the immediate area through a fog machine — you know, the kind they use on a movie set.

    Her eyes and the body language were saying, “Please give us some privacy, Writer… I want to take my first stab at giving this camera guy triplets!”

    One of the many humiliating experiences I had that proved to me being a writer is not sexy.

    Why was the photographer?

    I have a hunch. I remember the one time women were throwing their panties at me was when I did stand-up comedy successfully in front of a larger group. I’ve never had such a rock-star response, before or since.

    Even when you and I spoke together at Harv Eker’s marketing seminar. Lots of grateful people, sure — but no women begging me to drag them back into the cave to make the spaghetti with sudden aoli.

    Only thing I can figure is… dopamines. Writers suppress that good, sexy feeling in women. Fotogs and stand-up comics stimulate it… and that’s putting it mildly!

    Does that track with what you know?


    • John Carlton says:

      Gosh, Garf, I’m thinking you need a big hug right now… but no way am I getting near you while you’re in this state.

      Yeah, the respect thing just baffles everyone. There’s the old blonde joke in Hollywood: “Did you hear about the blonde actress? She slept with the writer.” That’s all there is to the joke, and it gets guffaws in SoCal crowds who know the Biz. You’re the screenwriter? Yeah, you better use the back door, dude, and no, you don’t get to eat with the crew.

      I’m happily in a long-term relationship, so my memories of swimming in the hormone-pools of any audience are dusty and faded. But I remember sitting in with bands on New Year’s Eve, and getting flashed by a dozen different women each time I played a short lead… very distracting. And it was totally the guitar, and not me.

      We’re just a shallow race of beings, Garf. Distracted by shiny objects, driven by biology, befuddled with the utter lack of logic in any of the aspects of romance. (My favorite tweak: Women on the pill are attracted to men whose hormones smell a specific way… yet, once off the pill, they are repulsed by the same smell. Nature is fucking with us all the time like that…)

      The main thing, though, is that writers don’t quit writing, even knowing how little respect they’ll get. I’m an amateur fotog, but no way would I do it full-time. I’m a writer, dammit.


      Thanks for the note…

  • John, what a weird coincidence that this post came out just this week.
    The very last weekend I attended the annual convention of (our 5th anniversary) – the wild bunch of I daresay the best German copywriter group.
    Just as you say: Although we 12 are all as different as our fingerprints, we have some things in common:
    We enjoy each other’s company to the point that other people in the hotel have taken US for the birthday party because we were all laughter and grinning faces. Some even “postponed” wedding day for the occasion.
    And we all share the following same story: We get job offers from headhunters that want to lure us back into corporate world – with arguments like this: “You would have a permanent employment” – “Of course you would have your OWN big office…”
    Do I here you chuckling?

    • John Carlton says:

      Once you get a taste of freelance life, you are unemployable by normal employers. You lose the ability to put up with corporate bullshit (not to mention keeping normal work hours, and wearing “work clothes” at an office).

      Thanks for the note, Martina. Do your German writer friends all know about the Simple Writing System? We’ve used to teach multiple writers, all over the world, how to write better in their native tongue. Classic salesmanship — the essence of the SWS — is cross-cultural and transcends language.

  • Amanda says:

    I’m usually far too busy making love to the page to have sex…and no, that is not some archaic British servant I keep as a pet.

    As for being odd – who wants to be normal anyway? It’s when we writers embrace our otherness that we really start to have fun. It’s also about then that the words really start to flow.

  • Bond Halbert says:

    Being raised in that dark backroom, makes you seem normal to me, but only until I look at regular humans.

  • Great post John, I had a blast reading it and the comments. As an ex bar owner, I love the writer crowd… now I’m working on being one…

    yah I know SWS…

    I feel my writing has improved drastically the problem is I’m not using it to make the big bucks. But I love reading your blog so that I can one day quit being a pussy and get off my ass and write.

    WOW… here’s brain training happening as I write.

    I’ve learned that the road “one day” leads to the city of “no where”… so I guess I’m catching myself making a transition to getting off my ass. Thanks John.

  • Rich Muir says:

    Holy #&*% that’s why I gravitated to being a writer!

    Always was slightly left of center and rebellious to the common curve of life.

    But dam I thought that was sexy, maybe that explains some of those awkward moments in social scenarios!


    P.s Love the line about the little monsters, beautiful

  • Dana Houser says:

    It’s solidified now…my decision to be a copywriter was definitely the right one.


    P.S. Thanks for the tip on raising my fees.

  • Bioniclily says:

    All I can say is…..What the Hell! What does juxtaposition mean any how?

    Is this chapter in SWS? dang, What the hell!

  • Leslie says:

    Lost and alone amongst dangling participles and mismatched pronouns I find myself yelling at the computer because there’s nothing and nobody else to blame. In those moments there’s no doubt I’m not sane, and no doubt I’m a real writer. You have succeeded where generations of staunch grammarians have failed, John. You have made us all want to improve. It’s not all about the money. Thanks for that!

  • Bill Jeffels says:


    Legendary post.John, My Fav…

    “And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, most of the time.”

    The funny thing is … I know I think a lot different then others, (NORMAL) you could say…

    And I wouldn’t trade my “What makes this guy tick? ” , personality for anything.

    Best, John,

    Bill Jeffels


  • Big Rabbit says:

    hard to get more bat shit crazy than a 7 foot bunny lover…

  • Kay says:

    For a newbie aspiring freelance copywriter, which of your products would you recommend starting with? SWS or your Freelance Copywriting Course?

    And thanks for being so involved with your blog. You are one of the few “BIG GUYS” that take the time to respond. Refreshing!

  • Caroline says:

    Cripes, I can’t get this post out of my head. Four times now I’ve returned to read it, and the comments, each time nodding in recognition and experiencing a physical reaction as the words resonate. I’m not a professional writer but have always needed to write; it is my connection to myself. Thank you for helping me understand me a little better.

  • Colin N says:

    Oh Sh** I’ve been outed!
    I’ve never been so stripped naked since that video in Cabo. I think I’ll have to get to know you better John.

  • Bryan Short says:

    A quick glance at top selling click bank products will show you exactly what is happening. All the “get rich quick” products that are selling sell “something in a box” or “software that exploits a glitch” etc.

    This crap is as worthless as the latest greatest pump and dump penny stock yet people buy it because they’re bound to the idea that they can get rich quick with zero…money, skill, time, risk, effort, or hard work.

    All the copywriting courses on there are in left field with little or no sales because “writing” is something you actually have to do.

    The real shame to me is that people are confusing “copywriting” as a technique for tricking someone out of their money (as in all these bs get rich quick products).

    Copywriting has many depths and each market has its own brain-soup that the writer has to eat AND know how to cook. Without that they’re just another drunk guy with a bad and no pinata.

    As Gary used to say “it’s theater” I think he meant that on two levels. 1: The ads that he created were a “theater of the mind” for the people reading them. 2: life as we know it is a “theater” of ourselves.

    Peace John,

    Thanks for everything you’ve taught me!


  • joe Nicassio says:

    You’re write. I mean right.
    Writers are the ones who make the magic happen.

    I am proud to be part of this “uniquely maladjusted, but fun” crowd.

    I am a freelancer, and I am completely unemployable in a traditional environment.

    I’m looking forward to your “Freelance Manual”, because anyone who is willing to lose sleep having “empathy nightmares”, so that we can slap a reader in the face, or grab a reader by the balls… to wake them up to EAGERLY hand over their “dead president photo collection”…

    Well, yes, we deserve to sit at the head of the “Feast of Life.”

    Teach me John. Teach me!

    Great writing is only great to the extent that we can connect with those business barons that understand and appreciate the value of great copy, and get paid for it.

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