After my wife passed, I decided to relocate into a smaller home and my current home is up for sale. Moving always reminds me of something that happened when I was shopping for a new home in the past.
Part of the process was furniture shopping. Since we were slated to move several months down the road, I was looking for an extended layaway plan that would help me temporarily store the furniture until I move into the new house.
But something strange happened, which reminded me of the power of applying pressure in copywriting.
After shopping around a few stores, I came across a big chain department store that carried what I was looking for — a bed, a couch, a dinner table, and chairs, all at reasonable prices. (In fact, they were all on special, which was nice.)
I walked in, spoke to a salesperson and asked if they had an extended layaway plan. After I asked him, he used what seemed to be the “good cop, bad cop” routine on me, which is a common sales tactic I’m all too familiar with.
“Let me check with my manager,” he said. He left, spoke with someone in the neighboring electronics department who obviously didn’t look like a “manager.” (In fact, the person seemed like a normal sales rep from the electronics department.)
A lot of people ask me how I write copy. I don’t mean the actual writing process (such as how I come up with headlines, bullets, offers, etc), but how I tackle the actual task of composing a new sales piece from scratch.
Everyone is different. My writing process is one developed over many years, and many people may adopt or dislike the same techniques. But in the hope that knowing my process may be helpful to some writers, I’d like to share it with you.
Of course, if I were to describe all of the steps, there would be way too much information to squeeze into one article. But for now, I can offer you a basic look at my methodology by giving you a short list of the seven steps I take.
“I don’t want to tell people because I want tears of joy, not sadness.”
Sylvie said this when she was asked if she wanted to tell people at the wedding about her breast cancer diagnosis just a week before we got married.
Fast-forward 8.5 years later, here we are at another wedding.
My son, Tyler Fortin, and Priya Randell got married in the hospital room before Sylvie passed. The ceremony ended at 11:15, and Sylvie took her last breath at 12:15PM — literally one hour later. It’s as if she held on for this excruciatingly beautiful moment. She even opened her eyes when they exchanged rings.
Obviously, tears of sadness were mixed with tears of joy this time, and we had no choice. (Sorry, Sylvie. There’s no working around this one.)
My son recorded the ceremony and shared it on Facebook. What my son said was so beautiful, I’ll simply quote him below as he explains this highly emotional day.
This is without a doubt the most emotional piece of film I have ever seen. By now most of you know that my mother, Sylvie Fortin, recently died of cancer at the young age of 45. When she was in her last stages of decline, Priya Randell Fortin and I decided to get married in the hospital, so that my Mom could see it for herself before she passed. I also decided to get this viscerally candid moment on my GoPro camera. What I’m about to show you was filmed on, by far the most emotionally crippling, and transcendentally beautiful day of my life. I have chosen to show this to you, completely uncut. Keep in mind this is also the first time anybody has seen this footage, other than myself. Please join me by honoring the memory of my Mom Sylvie, as she touched myself and so many others, and will be truly, truly missed. I love you Ma, always and forever.
After my wife passed, my grief was compounded by not only the loss of my business partner but also the loss of some major client accounts — and a huge chunk of my income along with it.
An understandable reason for this is that some of these clients prefer to deal with my late wife or fear that I may not live up to her level. After all, it was her baby that she built from the ground up in the last 20 years, and with which she built some very close client relationships.
I get it. I totally understand it. Business is business. Sure, losing clients literally a week after losing your business partner, and being alone trying to learn and take over everything, is not easy.
But while I may appear to be in my darkest moments, I’m actually relieved, strong, and determined. Why? Because I remember something Sylvie would often say when it came to dealing with her cancer and her refusal to “fight” the disease:
“Don’t fight the darkness, just turn on the light.”
I keep that quote firmly in mind when confronting obstacles, and remind myself this is also a perfect opportunity. After the initial shock, I started to realize that it allows for a few things:
Starting fresh and getting new, longer-term clients.
Working with clients who will appreciate my work ethic.
(Now, let’s not forget that I also became a grandfather and a father-in-law in that time, too! I guess I became a lot of things in such a short period of time.)
Anyway, I never thought of myself like that until then. It made me realize the implications, which was the fact that my life has dramatically changed — and will continue to change — in such a short period of time. But I refuse to accept darkness. I find a way to turn on the light.
Thinking like this is not some “secret” or Pollyanna attitude. Attitude is indeed important, but you’re not trying to wish or visualize the positive in your life. You still have to work at finding the lightswitch and flipping it, so to speak.
In that sense, and besides relocating, I have new goals going forward:
Sylvie and I were members of a mastermind coaching group called AM2, founded by Armand Morin. Part of that membership includes a monthly magazine with online marketing and business-building tips, articles, and news.
Armand and his wife Marianna were so moved by Sylvie that they have dedicated this entire month’s issue to her.
This has, in turn, touched me deeply.
Not only that, but the magazine, which is normally available to members only, has also been made freely downloadable so that everyone can read and share it.
Today is Sylvie Fortin’s wake, and it’s going to be a tough day. In the meantime, I wanted to share something to remind you of her amazing courage.
Yesterday was the annual “Bust a Move” fundraising fitness-o-thon for cancer care and research. I typically do these every year. Obviously, this year I couldn’t make it.
Not only did the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation set up a memorial fund in Sylvie’s name, but they had a reporter come to our house, interview us, and show the video during yesterday’s Bust a Move event.
A friend of ours was there and recorded it with her phone camera (she admitted she was shaking a bit because she was crying).
You can almost hear the gasps in the crowd when it was revealed Sylvie was diagnosed just days before our wedding. After the video, the host was so touched, she couldn’t speak for a few seconds and asked everyone to hug each other. Wow.
At 2:00 PM today as we remember Sylvie, take a moment and think of her and our kids. Thank you.
Keep in mind that we will try to record the event and stream it online. I know I’m forgetting people, so if you know someone who this would be important to them or to Sylvie, please pass it along. Thank you.
In her honor and memory, I will continue in her stead and do my earnest best to continue to provide the same level of quality service her clients had come to expect from her.
As for me, personally, I’m in shock right now.
It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say right now, and I’m a copywriter!
But another copywriter, Craig Perrine, the best man at our wedding a decade ago, wrote a beautiful and stunning tribute to her on Facebook, so with his kind permission I’m copying it here.
(I will notify you of services in a day or so.)
P.S.: In my grief and consternation over doing “Bust a Move” breast cancer fitness-o-thon event again this year (actually, it’s happening next week!), I get this email from the foundation’s senior manager who set up a memorial fund in Sylvie’s name so I don’t have to worry about doing the event.
I’m so touched by this. So I ask, rather than sending us flowers, won’t you donate in Sylvie’s name instead? She would have wanted that.
If you prefer to make a gift by phone, please call the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation at 613-247-3527. Gifts by cheque can be mailed to:
The Sylvie Fortin Memorial Fund
c/o the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation
1500 Alta Vista Drive
Thank you to everyone for your support and kindness.
Today my dear friend Sylvie Fortin defeated cancer after a decade of out-smarting and out-fighting that damned disease, living on her own terms the whole way.
My heart goes out to my brother-in-arms, Michel Fortin (who has been an absolute saint) and their entire family who have been by Sylvie’s side throughout her truly awe inspiring fight.
I know it’s a cliche to say that life is precious and fragile, but it is also still a breathtaking gut punch when you lose someone you love.
Yet, there is no defeat in death for there is absolutely no way for us to escape our mortal limits. Cancer can’t chase Sylvie where she is now.
For that I am truly grateful.
The inescapable truth of our fleeting time in this life hit me over the weekend. I was in the middle of a 7 hour drive when I got the news. On my long drive home I had an almost surreal and never ending stream of memories flood my mind. I laughed at the fun we had, I smiled knowing I’d been lucky to have had such an unforgettable friends, I yelled because it has been far too long since we’ve seen each other, and I had a good cry, too.
While life is fleeting and fragile, what matters most is who we get to spend our limited time with and how we experience those we love along the way.
And Sylvie lived every minute of this life with passion and determination from start to finish. No one who knew her will ever forget her brilliant and tenacious business savvy, her champion fighter’s spirit, her heart as big as the world, and her everlasting love for her soul mate, Michel.
Of course, I’ll always treasure Sylvie’s quick wit and wry humor… And I loved how Sylvie didn’t suffer fools, but she was also perfectly happy to laugh at herself, too.
Even though I knew this moment was coming, there really are no adequate words for how heartbreaking it is that she is gone.
I’ll never forget the day when Michel asked me to be the best man at their wedding. What an amazing honor. Almost ten years later I can still remember so many perfect memories from that blessed ceremony.
And it makes me laugh to this day that the Celtic shirts the groomsmen wore made us look like pirates… and that someone thought we were valets when we stood waiting for the limo outside the hotel.
I would fill up this post if I even attempted to list all the family and friends who gathered for the wedding. That gives me all the more sense of how many people are mourning Sylvie’s passing today.
The most bittersweet memory from the wedding was learning the night before that Sylvie had been diagnosed with cancer.
I’ll never forget my utter disbelief… and then how reassured I was by their unified strength in the face of such an absurd twist of fate. Sylvie’s gallows humor and unyielding fiery determination to fight told me that if anyone could beat this and live forever, it was Sylvie with Michel by her side. I was truly in awe of their bond.
From the start, Michel and Sylvie knew their journey together would not be an easy one… and I swear I have never seen two people who loved each other more and handled the unimaginable with such strength and grace.
All I know right now is that the human body is an inadequate vessel for a soul like Sylvie’s and our indelible memories of her time with us will live on with us till the end.
Be with the angels, Sylvie. I know you’d want us to be strong and laugh in the face of adversity.
I also know we’ll see you again… It will seem like blink of an eye to you now.
Just know it will feel like an eternity to us because you are already dearly missed.