What Meryl Streep, Salsa Dancing, and the Circus Have in Common

16 Jun

damn damn damn damn

My internship ended this week and that means a lot of crazy mixed emotions started bubbling inside me. But instead of crowing about my temporary freedom or waxing whiny about finding a job, I thought I’d get one last work anecdote out.

I was asked to write a profile–a blurb, really–about a client who requested that my writing tone be “fun, exciting, sophisticated, and direct.” A few emails later, the client added “chic” to the list of stylistic demands.

You should also know that the company I interned for aims for a writing tone that is friendly/informal and engaging.

Hokay. So. my poor little words needed to suit up and be fun, friendly, exciting, sophisticated, direct, and chic? I don’t even know how to make my writing chic (unless I put it into French, for which I would need le google translate) let alone have it encompass all of those descriptive terms. There are a lot of exclamation points in the articles on my work’s website. It’s sort of an unwritten company policy to use them generously, and I suppose it goes with the vibe they’re trying to create. For this client, though, even one exclamation point seemed to spit in the face of “chic” and “sophisticated.” On the other hand, “fun” and “exciting” almost demand exclamation.

I sat for far too long, trying to come up with an opening sentence for this mountain of a molehill. Blink blink blink went the cursor. Curse curse curse went my mouth. Who were these people, to want my words to conform to these labels? Did they have split personality disorder? Were they testing me? Was this one of those unsolvable riddles?

To boost my spirits, I started thinking about who or what could be described as fun, friendly, exciting, sophisticated, direct, and chic. Initially, I thought that if I could identify something/someone, using all these words, then I would prove that it was possible and my task would be less daunting. Eventually, however, I just got a kick out of trying to create a list….

  • Meryl Streep
    She can sing ABBA songs as good as any dancing queen, she wears high fashion, she’s earned and won awards. She can act high and mighty and just plain high. She’s brilliant, she’s a chameleon, she’s all of those damn words that the client wanted. Wouldn’t it be funny if, for the client profile, I just wrote MERYL STREEP in a larger than life font?  And then pulled an Emperor’s New Clothes and acted like that was perfectly reasonable and anyone who thought otherwise was crazy? Not your usual Meryl Streel fantasy, but a good one…
  • Salsa Dancing 
     Well, really, the first descriptive I think of for this dance is sexy…but “exciting,” “sophisticated,” and “fun” work well too. As for “direct” and “friendly,” well, if you’ve ever watched two people salsa you’ll know that the graceful touching, twisting, stroking, is beyond friendly and pretty much cuts to the chemistry chase.
  •  The Circus
    Clowns. Fire. Animals. Acrobats on high-wires and other twisty people. Ladies wearing feathers and leotards and long eyelashes.
    I’ve been to the traditional circus once, when I was little. (And I was slightly scarred by the protesters outside yelling about animal cruelty and other grown-up concepts.) I saw a Cirque du Soleil show once, when I was a brand new teenager. (Impressive, but a little above my head.) It seems like either could be described using the aforementioned list of words. 

That’s all I got. It’s hard coming up with fun, friendly, sophisticated, exciting, direct, and chic examples! (Can you think of any more?) You want to know the ending of this story? How I possibly managed to adhere to the client’s wishes and produce the ideal requested material?

I ignored the adjectives that were inconvenient to me (chic? what the heck?) and just directed my words to be the best they could be. The customer is always right….except when they’re oh-so-wrong and weigh you down with unhelpful labels. No word back yet on whether they were satisfied with what I wrote, but I happen to think it’s pretty good. Although, since I’m not working there anymore, I probably won’t get notice of their approval. That’s probably just as well. If they had major problems with the blurb I turned in, my mind would probably churn with a few choice words for them–they wouldn’t be fun, friendly, sophisticated, or chic……but they’d sure be direct.

One Response to “What Meryl Streep, Salsa Dancing, and the Circus Have in Common”

  1. WobblyWords June 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Loved the ending 🙂 Very cute and great comic – I need to put that on my advisors office door!!!!

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