Working in Marketing Has Ruined My Writing

When a greeting card stumped me, I knew I had a problem

Kelsey Gilchrist
5 min readJul 7, 2021


Photo by Duané Viljoen from Pexels

One particular February 14th, I found myself wedged against the wall of a crowded subway car in the midst of a small life crisis.

In one hand, I held a greeting card decorated with curlicued writing and watercolor flowers. The inside was blank. Balancing on the crook of my elbow on that same arm was an open notebook, covered in messily scrawled sentences, each with lines drawn through them. In my other hand, I held a pen that I was chewing on to help me think. It wasn’t helping.

I had already written six drafts for the card’s message, but each time I wrote another, I immediately crossed it out. None of them sounded right.

Keep in mind that this was a Valentine’s Day card. Children write them.

The train lurched and I pulled the card and the notebook tighter to my chest, trying to steady myself. As I stumbled, I felt the card crunch in an ugly way. Whoops. But then again, if it was ruined, maybe that was for the best. At this point, the best message I had come up with was the title of a Fallout Boy song. I’m not sure my boyfriend would have appreciated a card that read ‘thx fr th mmrs’ in cramped, standing-on-the-subway writing.

I was bewildered by why this task was vexing me. It wasn’t that I was searching my feelings to discover what I wanted to express to my partner. On that contrary, I was very sure about what I meant to get across. The gist of the card was supposed to be a classic V-day message for a boyfriend. I love you, you’re great, I like dating you, that sort of thing. Four lines, max.

It shouldn’t be problem. I write for a living. I’ve spent years writing for brands, drafting messages for every occasion you can imagine. I’m trained to write clear, compelling messages that resonate. Website copy. Advertorials. Blog posts. Tweets. I can craft a killer CTA that will have you clicking ‘buy’ before you even know what you’re purchasing. A measly card should be a breeze.

If I were writing for the charity I once worked for, I know how the card would go.

“Sending loads of love and gratitude your way on this day of kindness. Thank you so much for your support…



Kelsey Gilchrist

Toronto-based writer and marketing strategist