Changing Direction in 2015

by Sean on December 31, 2014

Train Tracks

2014 was a strange and surprising year, both professionally and personally. A few projects that mean the world to me went in – shall we say – unique directions I hadn’t anticipated. And yet, my career as a freelance copywriter has continued to rise well beyond my initial expectations when I arrived in Toronto in 2012 and began rebuilding my professional network.

Here are some career highlights from 2014:

> My weekly contributions to Format‘s online magazine, ExploreCreateRepeat.com, continued throughout the whole year. Some of my favourites include: “Rebounding From the Kibosh”, “Keeping Your Inner Critic in Check”, and “The Cutting Edge Hurts: Why Creative Discovery is Hard”.

> I worked on a variety of projects through my client geekspeak, the most recent of which has put me in a Senior Editor/Copywriter role on a nationwide initiative for YellowPages.ca.

> Throughout 2014, I also continued my professional relationship with Vancouver Film School. It’s a post-secondary entertainment arts institution in British Columbia that I know inside and out, since I used to be a student, then worked inside one of the programs, then became a full-time staff copywriter, and now I’m a freelance copywriter. Some projects included rewriting web content for their 13 programs, creating and contributing to advertising campaigns, and a variety of ongoing writing and editing tasks.

> The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) contracted me to write their 2014-15 Education Catalogue. It’s a valuable way for educators across the country to engage with the NFB’s resources to encourage media literacy in the classroom. You can see the full document here: http://films.nfb.ca/education-catalogues/NFBEducation_Catalogue_2014-2015.pdf (PDF file).

> Right at the end of the year, I was contracted by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to copyedit their signature corporate document – a large task that required a quick turnaround. This involved editing content from various departments across the TDSB to ensure clarity and consistency.

For 2015, I’m planning on taking a new tack in the creative writing side of my career, one that will focus primarily on pulling things back from a production-centric mindset and rededicating my energy to projects that better reflect the reasons I started my career as a writer. As a result, my work for film and theatre will take a temporary backseat while I reconsider what I wish to accomplish in those areas.

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John Oliver - HBO Last Week Tonight with John OliverThere’s been some debate about John Oliver’s somewhat-dubious claims that he and others, like Jon Stewart, are not journalists. He stresses that they’re comedians and everything they do on their shows is in the service of comedy.

Here’s a quote from Oliver that appeared in a recent New York Times piece:

“We are making jokes about the news and sometimes we need to research things deeply to understand them, but it’s always in service of a joke. If you make jokes about animals, that does not make you a zoologist. We certainly hold ourselves to a high standard and fact-check everything, but the correct term for what we do is ‘comedy.’ ”

I think that’s a total cop-out. In my opinion, Oliver and Stewart aren’t just making comedy shows, they’re filling a massive void in mainstream media by providing in-depth analysis of complex issues… which happens to be funny. Oliver, specifically, is employing magazine-style journalism by devoting long chunks of time (“long” as defined by the internet age) to relevant but little-discussed problems affecting his viewer’s lives. And then, yes, he sometimes spends that same amount of time on sex-hungry space geckos.

Just because he’s funny and focuses more on the joke than, say, an old-school journalist would doesn’t preclude him from practicing journalism. If he’s involved in writing, researching, editing, or providing direction on where to look for truth where little is known, then he’s a journalist. That’s how it works. The only way I can argue on behalf of his claim is if he said he’s just a gifted performer who reads from a teleprompter during every show, but we know that’s not the case.

I never appreciated the cowardly way (yes, I said it) Jon Stewart would criticize incompetent or intentionally misleading broadcasters, and then cloak himself with a veil of “I don’t have to live by the high standards I preach because I’m just a comedian”. That’s bull. He and Oliver work by a professional journalistic code, so why wouldn’t they take on the title that comes with the territory?

Be proud of what you do, John Oliver. You’re really good at it.

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Dumping Money on the Didion Doc Kickstarter

by Sean on October 25, 2014

Joan Didion_Kickstarter

Readers of my blog probably how much I love Joan Didion– I’m sorry, what? You don’t? Dude, come on.

Okay, so now that we all know how much I admire her writing, then you’ll understand why I had to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign (embedded below) that seeks to produce a documentary about her life.

At the time of this posting, the campaign organizers had surpassed their $80,000 funding target by more than $60,000. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they cracked $200,000 by the time their campaign is over.

It’s a great sign, because a) I really want to see some kind of filmic documentation of Didion’s amazing life of writing, and b) I like it when intriguing projects build momentum despite not following cynical industry “wisdom” – i.e. making a bio-documentary about a semi-popular writer who happens to be a soft-spoken older woman (gasp!).

Didion was well-respected by industry suits and fellow writers alike, not to mention the readers of great writing (i.e. unpublished writers). But she never had the kind of notoriety that someone like the Da Vinci Code dude had. Yes, I’m deliberately pretending not to know his name. And I’m totally fine with that, but I still selfishly want to have more content to sink my teeth into here.

For all the dreck that’s posted on Kickstarter, it’s the promise of projects like this that get me motivated to fund more stuff.

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The Story Behind My Icon

by Sean on September 24, 2014

SeanMinogue_iconMost of the people I know primarily through online communication – including many of my freelance clients – identify me by my icon (pictured here). Of course I am much more than a peachy, red-bearded, plaid-wearing dude, but those elements are undeniably true to my physical character.

This image appears everywhere from this website to my profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn, not to mention my professional invoices. It’s an accidental brand, one that I’ve come to love as my freelance writing career has taken off. The design isn’t my own, or even one that I commissioned, but actually a repurposed part of a personal project a good friend of mine in Vancouver created a few years back. She wanted to wish me a “bon voyage” as I was leaving for the decidedly more corporate shores of Toronto, and this icon was her quirky way of doing it.

The designer’s name is Åsa Cederholm and she’s an incredible talent originally from Sweden.  She permitted me to shoehorn this image into every corner of my internet presence and I can’t say that I thank her often enough for providing me with such a great go-to visual. (It’s surprising how often I need one.)

So do me a favour: Go to her website and check out the rest of her work. Send her an admiring email or an anonymous bag of money. Recommend her to friends. Because she’s awesome.

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Your Move, Chief (RIP Robin Williams)

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This one hurts a little. Robin Williams wasn’t just some celebrity comedian whose name everyone seemed to know. His natural gifts as a performer and well-demonstrated desire to try new things made him an artist worth watching. A kind of chaotic spirit who possessed deceptive quantities of discipline to produce more moments of brilliance than […]

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My Latest Articles for Creative Professionals

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As part of my life as a freelance copywriter, I collaborate with Format.com‘s team to create weekly online articles over at ExploreCreateRepeat.com that speak to the joys and challenges of creatives – meaning: people engaged with professional creative work like design, photography, web development, and yes, copywriting too. It’s a pleasant surprise every week to mine […]

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My Summer 2014 Reading and Viewing Picks

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I’ve been reading a lot of books and seeing some great films lately. Not every one of them is worth recommending, but here are a few of the favourites I’ve come across so far this summer. Stoner by John Williams (1965) has exploded in popularity over the past year, having been branded as a forgotten gem of American […]

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Collecting Sentences and Releasing Them Into the Wild

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Tumblr just told me I’ve been with them for three years, which is odd because I always forget I have a tumblr. Almost always. I (infrequently) post my favourite sentences written by authors I love on worldentire.tumblr.com. Sometimes when I’m reading a book, a single line will leap out at me because of some unique feature. Maybe it’s alarmingly long […]

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Pause Netflix and Go See ‘Under the Skin’

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I’ve had a good run of movie-going success lately. I’ll pretty much see anything at my favourite theatres, TIFF Bell Lightbox and the single-screen Revue Cinema in Roncesvalles in Toronto, but it always feels even better when the films that I check out on impulse turn out to be great. Case in point: I was […]

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Writing in Seclusion is Hard (But Worth It)

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I recently spent a week at a sweet mini-cottage near Penetanguishe, ON (my temporary work space pictured here). For the whole time, I sat in front of my computer without the distracting compulsion to be online all the time. Well, the compulsion was totally there but the wifi, alas, was not. The result was a big chunk of […]

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