All Qualities You’ll Find in A Top Annual Report Copywriter

January is here. And it’s the time of the year when every copywriter starts to be so absorbed by the yearly grind of annual report writing. I can see copywriters around me are preparing and twitching either because of their enthusiasm or grogginess upon embarking on a new project (or if you’re quite lucky – a few new projects in hand).

Working as an annual report copywriter is not for everyone self-claiming to be a writer. Even if you think you’re a best-selling novelist whose linguistic skills are no doubt one of the best on the earth’s surface like J. K. Rowling, you may not find annual report copywriting as sexy as writing your fantasy characters and their life journeys.

We know few fiction writers who can also have a knack for copywriting. One of these is Salman Rushdie, who used to work as a copywriter for the spectacularly renowned agency, Ogilvy and Mather, where the founder is forever reminding the rest of the company:”The consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”

Still quoted from Rushdie, being a copywriter has also instilled an invaluable skill on himself as a novelist. It’s when he worked as a part-time copywriter there that he learned that copywriting is actually fun ONLY IF done 2-3 days a week. Done more than that, you’ll find yourself deluged in an ocean of workload which flows incessantly days and nights and early mornings and weekends as well.

If there were something that working as a copywriter in the advertising industry taught Rushdie, it would really be this: “DISCIPLINE”. It forces you to learn to get on with whatever tasks needed to finish. No excuse whatsoever. There’s no artistic romanticism such as writer’s block. That’s a ‘privilege’ only amateurish writers can use when they need a shield from guilt of not doing meaningful work. Sounds too familiar?

But as I work with some copywriters (because I am one myself), I can draw a conclusion that there are some qualities an annual report copywriter must possess that people think are so obvious but actually are not that essential.

Of course, there’re qualities we assume a copywriter must have, such as:

  • flawless writing skills
  • speedy and accurate translation ability
  • eagle-eye editing skills
  • quick-wittiness
  • a rapid and effective typist
  • ability of presenting ideas to potential clients
  • assertiveness
  • flexibility of working
  • openmindedness
  • relentlessness

It’s all technical, anyway. It’s more about amazing linguistic skills and aptitude.

However, as far as I can see it, those hard skills are not that difficult to acquire (provided that one has a decent intelligence prowess, not necessarily stellar one at all). But if I have to come up with one single quality of a top-rate copywriter, it would be

A NICE PERSONALITY

I am saying that a copywriter doesn’t necessarily have to act as an entertainer in front of his or her clients. A copywriter just needs to be the best version of him or herself. There’s no rudeness in attitude and behaviors.

Some copywriters are known to be highly skillful, eccentric and weird personalities but they’re people with lower sense of humor and an unbeatable degree of pig-headedness.

This kind of copywriter is of course able to produce high quality of work. But does a client want to come back next time if you’re a less pleasant personality? As far as I’m concerned, they may but do they want to see you as a person? No.

When you’re a copywriter working on annual reports which at times entails long long long working hours and full focus at an ungodly hour, you’d better tone yourself down so you can get along with others during the ‘marathon’, leaving a good impression and more than that, a life-long track record. (*)

Creating Acceptance

There’s a lot of major life events going on in these recent few months.

Losing my inner circle members.

Losing a substantial, steady income source.

Moving to a new environment.

It’s been crazy and I can’t complain.

Yet, I feel so empowered by the fact that I’m financially fortunate.

I have nothing to worry about to meet my basic needs.

Above all, I feel healthy physically and mentally. The second mentioned, though, is something I’ve been constantly striving for especially in these ‘tough’ times.

When I say ‘tough’, I use it to respect others.

Brutally honest, 2020 feels to me like another year.

It’s just the novel Coronavirus that makes it a little bit different.

It’s too early to declare that I am fully accepting the mess and chaos that happen to me in this tumultuous year.

But I’m trying to do so.

Like Russian author Anton Chekov.

He kind of showed me how our attitude towards life affects what happens to us.

This is more or less what Chekov thought (cited from Robert Greene):

“I want to NOT feel this burden by all of these bad feelings towards other people. I’m going to start thinking that my father can help himself. That he was born a serf. and he was bred to be this awful person. […] It’s just human nature. I’m going to accept them and I’m going to love them for who they are.”

Hence, he freed himself from all negative emotions.

Isn’t it relieving? (*/)

#ifeelyoubro : Talking About Asian Men’s Mental Health in These Increasingly Challenging Times

The legendary 2020 pandemic that we are going through now has put many men under unprecedented pressure of life.

I’m not an exception.

It is such a lie to say that I’m not affected by the pandemic. I do get affected by the global public health menace and I don’t deny that my mental health is at a certain extent impacted as well.

How much bump has it left on my psyche? That’s another story to tell.

But last night, I deliberately joined a virtual talk on men’s mental health held by Calm Collective in Singapore, moderated by Luqman Mohamed (co-founder of Calm Collective), and featuring Juffri Mok (video content producer/ DJ), Titus Ting (early childhood professional) and Jaye (music artist).

The talk was described as the first installment of #ifeelyoubro series. This is a place “where we have open conversations about mental health from a male point of view to show that it’s okay for men to open up and talk about their feelings.”

The talk was held as we’ve seen an alarming surge of suicide cases among men around the world. BBC wrote about this last year (read more here: Why more men than women die by suicide), which confirms the claim that across the world, men are more at risk for suicide yet less likely to talk about their mental health and ask for help.

One of the simplest questions to learn our mental health is: “When the last time did we cry?“. You can ask this seemingly sensitive and un-manly question to our male friends or relatives.

It’s really hard for men NOT to cry these days. They may have lost their jobs. They may also have lost their savings. They may have lost their homes. They may have lost partners, children, or beloved ones due to Covid-19. They may have lost their spirit of life as an accumulated consequence of all these things.

Asian masculinity

I don’t know about any other societies, but in the US men do suffer a lot from toxic masculinity. NPR has discussed the issue in “How Toxic Masculinity Affects Men” and somehow I can relate to this phenomenon even though I’m living my whole life in the Indonesian society which is totally different from the American one but still shares the same views towards masculinity.

In the US, as NPR puts it, boys usually have close friends but as they grow up and enter puberty, they lose these close friends gradually. That loss might be caused by an obligation of academic pursuits or other major life events (marriage, for example).

As a result, these young men grow lonely. They might be staying in a dorm with classmates or such but their souls are lonely as they lack intimacy in their childhood friendships.

As grownup men, they are taught implicitly by the society around them that showing emotions is prohibited and manly. A real man don’t hold hands with another man because that looks gay. Strangely enough, girls can do that (and even more, they can hug and kiss each other) and they are less judged.

In Asia, men do go through the relatively similar situations. Asian men are taught to follow parents’ wishes and they can be really tough in this department compared to parents in other cultures (correct me if I am wrong).

Yet, at the same time Asian men also want to live a life in which they can be themselves.

Conflicts may arise when parents and sons have dissenting opinions on how sons’ lives must be led.

Jaye shared that he shed tears for a friend who came to him to tell this kind of story, which is common amongst Asian sons.

Speaking of how Asian families address mental health issues at home, Titus acknowledged that his family treats it as “an elephant in the room”. Though it’s there, its existence is not recognized until things get really bad and hence, irreversible and unfixable.

As an Asian men myself, I also agree with Titus, that Asian families don’t usually bring mental health issues as dinner topics.

Parents and sons’ conversations are hardly ever about mental health but more about events and achievements at school or at work or in life. Talking about emotions and feelings is just way too sensitive and thus left unaddressed and suppressed. We all know this can be a potential time bomb in the future.

Tips to take care of men’s mental health

There are many ways to take care of our mental health, such as:

  1. Have a supporting system: Some men are lucky (or unlucky) enough to live with their families. If one is not in this situation, then find a friend or two who are trustworthy and dependable enough. That way, a man can have a supporting system.
  2. Find an outlet: For those who don’t have partners yet or families around them, then now it’s the time to learn how to express their emotions and feelings through arts, such as writing, music, or such. Rediscovering an old hobby might be good. This creative endeavor may help us channel this negativity out and create balance in mind.
  3. Work out: Some men think exercise is a nonsense. But in these times, they find the opposite. They truly appreciate the ability to just walk around the neighborhood because staying at home all day long is maddening, not to mention all the workloads while we are working from home for almost the entire waking hours.
  4. Meditate: Jaye advised that men should consider meditating as one of their tools to maintain mental health.
  5. Immerse yourself in nature: Mother nature has offered us the cure since a long time ago but we are so ignorant. Reconnect with nature by walking in woods or at a nearby park in the morning to get the sense that you’re not alone and the earth is not what is going on in our mind.
  6. Have a nonjudgmental zone: Related to a supporting system, this zone can only be created with people you feel most comfortable to talk with.

This talk only lasted less than an hour, which was I think way too short for panelists to go deeper into the issue. But as a starter, it was a blast. At least for me. (*/)

The Attraction of Suburbs

Suburbs are more affordable and less crowded and offer a relatively much cleaner environment. Very apt for those earning a living in the capital but wanting to take care of their well being and mental health. (Photo credit: Akhlis)

Inevitable economic recession. That is what they keep telling us on television and via mass media.

Indonesia is dragged down to the swamp of malaise after being hit hard by the pandemic since February this year.

We have seen a rising number of unemployment, weakening consumption rate and economic activities in general as everyone seems to put things on hold.

They wait and see if the pandemic will eventually abate soon or persist. For how long? Only God knows.

Jakarta as the epicentrum of all socioeconomic activities of Indonesians was seen far less jammed on its 75th celebration of independence day. (photo credit: Akhlis)

So far I have seen a lot of economic damage caused by Covid-19 in Jakarta, a megacity I have been living in for more than a decade and will leave for a suburb.

Malls are reopening since mid June 2020. They slowly attract more visitors, hoping to compensate their huge loss for months of closure. More and more restaurants are also offering their dine-in service for everyone.

Public buses serve people again as well. The commuter lines that connect Jakarta and its neighboring satellite areas also operate after standing still for months to readjust their operations to the so-called New Norm.

As I observe, Jakarta applies the strictest rules of physical distancing and personal hygiene. But even that seems to be loosening from time to time.

Certainly people do wear masks outside while riding motorbikes and cars, taking the mass transportation modes, but in private and semi private areas they just don’t give the pandemic a single F. Life goes on as usual. Like the Old Normal.

In commuter lines, New Normal rules are strictly applied. But things are running in a pre-pandemic way outside of these public spaces. (photo ctedit: Akhlis)

I took a two-hour train trip from the heart of Jakarta and was headed south.

Homebound. Sort of.

Living in Jakarta has taught me a lot and I feel like this is the time to close this chapter. I have had enough.

For this reason, I am trying to make some adjustments.

I will be working at home longer than ever. Thanks to the coronavirus. And the nature of my job as a writer allows that to happen. All I need is a reliable, fast internet connection at home and voila! I am ready to work remotely.

Speaking of suburbs, I think what attracts me most is the tranquility.

Fewer people.

Fewer skyscrapers.

Less polution.

More fresh air.

More sunrises and sunsets.

More open space.

More walks and runs and yoga.

And most importantly, more opportunities.

Thank you, life!

Hopes of a Writer

img_0487I believe writing is like fire at the darkest night. It illuminates. It enlightens. It guides. It leads us through the unknown.
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But Indonesia is the country where writers are a bunch of second class citizen. They are struggling to make their ends meet. They have to do other jobs to survive while working on their pieces. They don’t get the support they need to thrive and live.
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This is the country where writers are taxed 24 times higher than micro and small business owners and twice as much than any freelancers working in other industries. They work the hardest and earn the smallest chunk of book sales (10% for every copy sold) while publishers get 38%, distributors 17%, and bookstores 35%).
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Meanwhile, the government keeps pushing people to read more but ridiculously do little to ease the situations.
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On this 75th celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day, I won’t tell the government or others what to do to solve this. But I won’t give up that easily to help protect my craftmanship and passion. May the flame of writing inside me never go out until it really should.

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