Most of us are happy to show off our finest work at the earliest opportunity, but the nightmare jobs seldom get talked about. We thought we’d put that right by asking 26 members to share their darker moments.Join in the discussion on the message board if you feel like adding to the hall of shame.
“One of the worst was writing a brochure that explained how laser eye surgery worked – including writing descriptions of what was happening in the graphic pictures. I was nearly sick.” Liz Burnell
“A 48-page A5 booklet on data mining techniques. My origination was a series of 1-2-1’s with a man known as ‘The Father Of Data Mining’. Nice guy, but he spoke advanced geekish, acronym version. Taking his stream of consciousness and trying to translate it into plain English was a trial and three quarters. Still not sure I know what ‘regressive heuristics’ are. Unsurprisingly, it never became a New York Timesbestseller.” Ken Munn
“I’d nominate a Daily Mail small ad for Woody’s Wagons (don’t ask), but after some hesitation, I was man enough to turn it down. So without naming names, any job where a client thinks they can write, or I have to claim something’s fantastic when it clearly isn’t.” Jim Davies
“I have a friend whose job was to walk around Tunbridge Wells wearing a sandwich board promoting golf sales and all-you-can-eat buffets. At parties he used to tell people ‘I’m in advertising’. He left to throw dead chickens over a wall on a kibbutz.
I can’t compete, although being goosed by OAPs wasn’t the best part of being a waiter. My worst writing job started out full of promise. A glamorous international business who ‘wanted to do something really special with the words’. Everyone agreed the first draft really did have something special about it. But… but… Slowly the requested changes started to strangle what was good.
By draft seven I had lost the will to live, a feeling no doubt shared by anyone who had to read it. A number of conference calls took place to ‘gain the input of others in the organisation’. Someone in sales asked why the company was referring to itself as ‘we’ and ‘our’. By draft nine I was drinking a lot of coffee and listening to Joy Division between phone meetings.
I think draft ten was ‘done in house’. For draft 11 another writer was brought in, briefly. It was then broadly agreed that draft eight had been pretty good. So I heard draft 12 was a lot like draft eight, but with some additions from the Canadian office. And liberal use of the serial comma.
That was nine years ago. I learned some important lessons about process, payment and caffeine. As for the client, I’m not sure what draft they’re on now.” Tim Rich
“When I first went self-employed, I met someone through a local chamber of commerce who ran a machinery hire company, and wanted to do a direct mail campaign for a particular piece of equipment – a hole boring device. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, but – the letter was headed ‘An end to your boring hole problems’. It’s not the worst job I’ve had, but probably the most toe-curling.” Anita Holford
“Not sure if this counts as the worst or best job I’ve ever done. But I was once asked to work on the launch issue of a customer magazine for a big retailer. I supplied various articles which all went down well. Then they asked me to tackle one last thing – the horoscopes section.
I pointed out that I wasn’t entirely qualified in this department, but they didn’t think it would be a problem. Oh, and would I mind adding in a few positive references to the retailer? ‘Thursday will bring a burst of positivity – why not head out and get that new outfit you’ve been promising yourself?’ That kind of thing.
I wrestled with my conscience and decided that, as all horoscopes are a load of nonsense, why not join in?
I’ve kept it quiet ever since. Typical Scorpio.”Nick Asbury