Our #CLEative Groove series features Q&A profiles on our city’s creative makers and shakers! Read on for our next installment with Josh Womack, senior copywriter at Progressive Insurance and author of the new book: “I’m not a copywriter, but…”
How long have you lived in Cleveland and where do you currently live? I grew up on the east side in Mayfield (aka “Habitat of the Cat”—we were the Wildcats, so that saying was painted in our high school gym). I have lived downtown for the past seven years with my wife. In 2020, we got a dog, Dori. I’ve never walked so much in my life.
What do you do for work? Share a bit about your professional path to date: For the last seven years I’ve been a copywriter at Progressive Insurance. Growing up in Mayfield, Progressive was always in my backyard, but I never paid much attention to it. Before coming to Progressive, I worked in nonprofits (National Kidney Foundation and United Way of Greater Cleveland). I also dabbled in stand-up and, for a very brief 90-day period, pro wrestling (which I talk about in my book). From 2013 to 2020, I also co-founded and wrote for Laugh Staff, a speechwriting company that used stand-up comedians to write wedding toasts.
Your new book, I'm not a copywriter, but..., was released this month. Share a bit about your writing process and the inspiration behind the project: The idea for a book first came to my head in 2019. I had a working title called I was writing because my thought was that I wanted to ask a collection of copywriters and speechwriters how they blocked out distractions to focus on writing. Each chapter would be a peek into the writer’s world to see how they sit down and actually do the work.
I reached out to another copywriter named Thomas Kemeny, who wrote a copywriting book earlier that year called Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising and he suggested just doing original thoughts [rather than an anthology], and I kind of agreed. Finally, last December, I started to put pen to paper.
In your opinion, what are Cleveland’s best-kept cultural and creative secrets? I know this place really isn’t a secret, but I love going to Edgewater Park with my dog. It’s a quick getaway where I can reset my brain and practice a little grounding (walking barefoot on grass or sand).
In terms of creative secrets, this past year I participated in Cleveland Bridge Builders and was lucky enough to visit a bunch of cool, hidden gems in Cleveland. One of them was Motogo on Hamilton Avenue; their theme is “Bring Back Shop Class,” and they teach students life skills through motorcycle building. Very cool! For our Bridge Builders graduation, we were at the LaSalle theater on East 185th. It was originally built in 1927 and has been renovated in the last few years. That’s the great thing about the Bridge Builders Program—it gets you out of your comfort zone, and gets you visiting Cleveland’s off-the-beaten path places.
Any quirky Cleveland stuff people need to check out? Mall B downtown acts as Cleveland’s unofficial dog park. During the pandemic, when most of us started working from home, all the downtown dog owners would meet up there after work for some socially-distanced fun. It was pretty much the extent of our social lives at the time! If it’s a nice day, you can usually find anywhere from 5 to sometimes 20 dogs between 5:30–7:30 PM. There is also a Facebook group called Dogs of Mall B where the dog owners post when they will be heading up. Sometimes I’m up there three times a day with my dog.
If you were a Cleveland landmark, which one would you be and why? Hmmm … this is a good one. The Greyhound Station. Bit of an inside joke. If you ask me, I’ll tell you.
Share a fun fact about you that might surprise other people: My wife is WAY more interesting than I am. She works for CLEBaby as a sleep trainer, which means she goes into people’s homes and helps teach best practices to the parents on how to get their babies to go to sleep and stay asleep. It’s pretty remarkable! She lives with the family usually for three nights and four days. Anytime I describe what she does I think of Ben Stiller in Happy Gilmore: “You will go to sleep, or I will put you to sleep.” LOL.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to plug into Cleveland’s writing community?There are a TON of good writers here in Northeast Ohio (and even more that I probably don’t even know about). When I was writing my book, I leaned on Rebecca Ferlotti, Doug Guth and Eddie Rice. Eddie himself just came out with a book a few months ago based on his years as a speechwriter. The book is called “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.”
I think the best way is start to connect with writers is to connect 1:1. So start sliding into those DM’s!
Is there anything else you want to share? I serve on the associate boards of The National Kidney Foundation and The City Mission. I started in nonprofits and never wanted to lose that sense of service and community, so volunteering keeps me plugged into what’s happening around Cleveland.
Check out Womack's new book here, and keep up with Josh on Instagram @joshuawomack82. Also, stay tuned for more #CLEative Groove profiles! You can also follow @CLEativeGroove on Instagram here, or send suggestions for people to profile here.