Fallout from the SolarWinds attack

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Some problems have a habit in plain sight; the dripping tap, the wobbly table, the warning light on the dashboard. It takes a catastrophe for these problems to reveal themselves.

It’s almost paradoxical. Whether it’s a flooded bathroom, a ruined dinner party or a roadside pick-up, you were aware of the problem the whole time — it just wasn’t worth attending to. Until it was too late. One might argue that the SolarWinds breach was one such catastrophes.

In the wake of the attack, as the world recovers from the shockwaves that rippled out from SolarWinds, we have the opportunity…

Bringing order to a chaotic client

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

We’ve all been there — or if you haven’t, count yourself lucky.

Email notification. Click. New job.


We’re looking for a brand awareness piece. Professional but provocative. 600 words. Need it on website by tomorrow.

Lots of love,

The Client

Copywriting misconceptions

Copywriting isn’t just about snappy straplines, similies and semicolons. Yes, that’s part of it — if you don’t know what an apostrophe is, you’re in trouble. But there’s more to it than that. As a copywriter, your goal is to give the client something that they think is great. Ideally, something that also makes them think ‘there’s no way…

Deconstructing the #1 AI writing assistant

Great writing, simplified.

That’s Grammarly’s tagline. And having personally used it for a year, I think it’s an accurate statement to make.

Every one of Grammarly’s 30 million users enjoys the benefits of the AI-powered writing assistant. It doesn’t just correct spelling mistakes and double spaces — it also suggests style changes and word replacements.

So — that’s what Grammarly aims to accomplish. But what are its specific objectives?

Grammarly’s objectives

The Grammarly proposition: “Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant.”

Broadly, that can be distilled into to objectives:

  1. Maximising accuracy
  2. Increasing clarity


I’m defining accuracy as the…

Avoiding instrumental convergence with uncertainty

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Imagine you’re an astronaut on a mission to Mars. Some of your spaceship’s core functions — temperature regulation, oxygen supply — are managed by an AI system.

Halfway through your mission, you start to sweat. The ship’s heating ducts are on full-blast.

Then you start to feel lightheaded. There isn’t enough oxygen in the air.

Clearly, the AI system is malfunctioning. Luckily, the ship’s control panel has a manual setting which would allow you to turn off the AI system, take manual control and fix the temperature and oxygen supply. …

Selling microwaves improves your writing

Photo by Ugo ° on Unsplash

People don’t care about your writing. Hi. Yes, you. No, there’s no one behind you. I’m looking at you. You.

I don’t care if you’re verified on Twitter. I don’t care if you went to Harvard. I don’t care how white your teeth are, how big your yacht is, or how incredible your life is as a freelance blogger.

I care about whether your article makes me think. That’s what I care about. Deep thoughts, angry thoughts, funny thoughts. They’re all thoughts, and as a writer, inspiring your audience to think is what you should aim to do.

Writers might…

You have to learn how to learn.

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A great drummer has more in common with a great chef than a good drummer. Why? Because learning is a transferable skill.

“People who are playing their A-game in any field have more in common with one another than they do with the B-players in their own field.” Tim Ferriss

Dave Elitch is a session drummer, and he’s played for a variety of world-famous artists (The Mars Volta, Miley Cyrus, 1975). …

Practical tools to respond to vague feedback

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Revelations always arrive unannounced. Like true love or extreme diarrhoea, they come when you least expect it, and when they do, they change everything. If I’d planned it, I would have had my revelation while I was summitting Everest, swimming with dolphins, or surveying the swirling, infinite majesty of the Milky Way. Instead, this revelation visited me while I was sat on a grey sofa in a grey office in a grey corner of London.

My boss was frowning, looking down at the copy I’d written earlier that day. It was a fairly routine job ad, with a focus on…

Source: Wikimedia

Michael Caine is a legend. If he’s not blowing the bloody doors off in classics like The Italian Job, you’ll find him helping Batman in blockbusters like The Dark Knight. Clearly, he knows more than a thing or two about making it in a competitive, creative industry.

So, what can Sir Michael teach us about building a successful career as a freelancer?

Lesson 1: Don’t be picky

Inspiration and motivation are fleeting. They’re like sunshine — nice when it’s there, but not something that you should rely on. It’s difficult to write when you can’t think of a good idea, or when you aren’t excited…

If I read ‘in these uncertain times’ one more time, I’ll punch a hole in my monitor.

Even at the best of times, life is full of uncertainty. And yes, obviously a global pandemic doesn’t help that. Whether you’re concerned about your health, job security or career, uncertainty can be a huge source of stress.

That’s because stress — the profound, fingernail-biting, hair-losing, sleep-disrupting kind — only really has one ingredient: uncertainty. If you don’t know much about the challenge you’re facing, whether you can succeed or what the end date is, things can get stressful. Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought us uncertainty in spades.

Stress can send us into a downwards spiral that’s hard to escape…

Writing advice from a New York Times bestselling author.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

Search for writing tips on Medium and you’ll find the same themes cropping up time and time again:

  • Rigid writing routines
  • Regimented creative processes
  • Relentless publishing schedules

There’s a lot to be said for discipline. If your singular aim is to grow your audience, these are excellent tips. Discipline helps with the grind: write, edit, publish, repeat. Keep knocking at the door and eventually, it will open.

But what if there was another way?

Quality over Quantity

Michael Lewis, the NYT bestselling author, uses his natural laziness as a filter:

Laziness requires the material to rise to the level of interest where you…

Greg Chapman

➖Professional copywriter ➖Published in The Guardian https://bit.ly/2SOCwQP

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