How to Live a Writing Life: An Interview with Matt Gonzales

Okay, here’s the back story

Matt Gonzales graduated from Ball State in 1997 with a B.A. in English, and then returned to Ball State in 2003 to earn a graduate degree in Digital Storytelling. He also launched his own webzine and kept busy writing music criticism for Popmatters.com.

In 2005, the Indianapolis Star hired Matt to write for INtake Weekly, where he became a columnist and a blog editor. He was soon recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for his long-form writing.

In 2008, Matt left the Star because he realized “the newspaper business was dying a slow, grisly death,” and jumped to the advertising business.

After spending some time working as a freelancer, Matt finally began work at Well Done Marketing, a full-service ad agency in Indianapolis.

Recently, we talked to Matt Gonzales about his journey through the job market. Here’s what he had to say!

My Advice to English Majors

Photo provided by Matt Gonzales

Photo provided by Matt Gonzales

English professors are a huge help

I learned some of my most important lessons from English professors.

Lauren Onkey was a tough and incredibly smart professor. Her Irish Lit class was one of the most fun– and grueling– classes I ever attended.

(Keep your eye out for our Spring 2015 alumni newsletter, Re:Vision, in which Matt and Lauren talk about this class and the difference good teaching can make.)

Overall, the quality of my English professors at Ball State was top-notch, and the skills I acquired in their classes are still valuable; I brag on ‘em to this day.

Be prepared for new challenges every week

As associate creative director at Well Done Marketing, I make sure all of our creative work aligns with our clients’ goals.

It might sound cliched, but the fun part of working in a small (but growing) ad agency is that there isn’t a typical week. Every week brings something different because my clients come from various industries, and they all need different things.

office well done

The office of Well Done Marketing in Indianapolis.

When I’m not figuring out how to help clients draw attention/sell something, I mostly write a lot of website and ad copy.

I occasionally write TV spots and interview clients, employees, and customers to help them determine their positioning and messaging.

It helps to immerse yourself in new experiences

Like many English majors, I graduated college with no intention of getting a real job.

I just wanted to go to a place I knew nothing about. I wanted to experience something new.

In a recent addition of Brain Pickings, I found an important bit of advice for aspiring writers:

  • Move to a small town where no one knows you.
  • Get a low-paying job — maybe washing dishes at the local diner.
  • Live humbly, in a small apartment.
  • Get to know the people in your community and at your workplace.
  • Do that for a year, maybe longer, and it’ll teach you more than anything else.

That seems like good advice. I wish I’d have done it.

BUT, if that sounds awful to you, then don’t do it. But for the love of god, don’t talk about being a writer. Don’t go around calling yourself a writer. Just write.

If you want to be a writer, you must write

As a writer, getting your ass in the seat (preferably for three 45-minute sessions a day) is the most important thing you can do, whether you want to be a journalist, a sports blogger, a gossip peddler, or, god forbid, an advertising copywriter.


Thanks, Matt! 

If you’d like to connect with Matt and learn more about advertising and copywriting, connect with him on LinkedIn.

Also: don’t forget to join our LinkedIn group!

 

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