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This Job is Bananas

The Crystal. London's pointiest building.

I was asked to write down my thoughts on a banana.

That's how I knew I was in the right place.

It was an exercise during the last installment of Copywriting Conference 2017, which took place at The Crystal in London. Speaker Nick Parker — somewhere between lamenting the unremarkable name of the event and making laugh-out-loud wisecracks — had given every attendee a banana. Upon it, we were to jot down a few things: what we hoped to learn from the conference, an onomatopoeia to describe ourselves (mine was "hah!"), and the words "I love you" on our neighbor's banana. It wasn't weird or anything.

Nick Parker gyrates on the stage. I do not remember why.

Photo credit: ProCopywriters

The point? Parker had a few. For one, it was unexpectedly therapeutic. The texture was smooth and soothing. A perfect canvas on which to confess your affection for the stranger sitting next to you. Again, definitely not weird.

Another was his lighthearted commentary on copywriters' note-taking habits. We take rubbish notes and seldom read them afterward, so we might as well record our thoughts on material that will expire in a few days.

His big takeaway, however, was that sometimes we need to call ourselves something other than a copywriter. The banana exercise was preceded by a discussion of all the fields that go into copywriting, which includes everything from neuroscience to nudge theory. The point — based partly on the premise that "copy" gets lost in translation outside the fields of marketing or journalism — was that the term copywriter doesn't quite do the job justice.

I surgically extract a fibrous layer from the epicarp of a cultivated banana. Photo credit ProCopywriters

I surgically extract a fibrous layer from the epicarp of a cultivated banana.

Photo credit: ProCopywriters

Quite simply, Parker declared, we are writers. Language strategists. He once encountered a fellow who described himself as "Enemy of the Predictable." Our science is not so much about words as it is ideas.

Thus, we had one final task before we would literally eat our words — write down on our banana what we could call ourselves other than copywriter.

Mine: Inspirator. One who inspires. It kind of sounds like "conspirator," giving it some subtly sinister undertones of which I’m quite fond.

Later, I discovered that it also has a medical definition: "a device (as an injector or respirator) by which something (as gas or vapor) is drawn in." I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Now that I'm back in the States, I see two things a little differently: copywriting and bananas. Every week, we get a new shipment of fresh produce from The Fruit Guys. I think I may just reach into our basket next time I need to bring an idea to its fruition.

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