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Collaborations: James McCue


I've had the pleasure of working with James McCue for the last two years, and I can say without exaggeration that his katana-sharp wit has gotten me through many a trying work day with my sanity intact. Professionally a seasoned Marketing Copywriter, James's creative talents and side-wound observational humor extend well beyond his deftly-crafted copy. - CC What did creativity look like for you in childhood?

Creativity existed in almost anything when I was a child. As someone who loved visuals and communication, I always veered towards the creative, whether that was art, music, or playing make-believe.

How does creativity look for you now versus ten years ago?

Since I work in a creative field, creativity has shifted a lot in the last 10 years. Now that it pays my bills, I see creativity in the work and follow-through you have to have in relation to creating something. I can’t just bang creativity out, I have to think about it, plan it, and go through numerous iterations sometimes.

As a creative professional, how does your creative process differ at work versus your personal creative projects?

I give myself WAY more leeway in my personal work compared to paid work. I feel freer in it, so it takes me a lot longer. Recently I started painting, and making it great hits my heart way more than anything I’d do professionally.

In your role as a Marketing Copywriter, what aspects of your day-to-day offer the most opportunities for creative satisfaction? What impediments to creative thinking do you see in your role?

My job is all about taking brand voice and leaning into it. Once you master the voice, you can take creative chances and test boundaries. When I can make a certain phrasing land and get approval, that’s when I feel like I’m making headway. Impediments are when some stakeholders only see talking about something one way—in my life, I’ve always been so juiced when people introduce me to new ways of talking about the same thing. Not only is it fresh, it sparks something in the brain and you remember often who the person was that said it.

Your writing is, without fail, pithy, clever and whip-smart -- have you always written with that level of personality in your style, or is that a voice that's developed over time? Can you tell me a bit about how it developed and who or what influenced it?

My mom and uncle were very very clever people (I think they attributed that to my Grandpa- their dad), and even though at a young age I didn’t always get their jokes, I saw the power they had in how people responded to them. Even though neither were college educated, they spoke like they were (these two were also ALWAYS reading). I read a TON (sometimes up to 10 books in a month) growing up, so teachers picked up on that and I was told from a very young age I should write.

I read my first Kurt Vonnegut book in 9th grade and my first David Sedaris book in 12th grade, it was over after that. I couldn’t write straightforwardly after that—it all had to come from the left.

It's that Vonnegut-Sedaris-McCue brand of subversive, sidelong wit I appreciate so much. - CC

Are there any personal creative projects you're working on that you'd like to tell me about?

Right now I’m doing small paintings for friends/family. I grew up believing I couldn’t create art with my hands (writing only) because I didn’t see myself as being adept at it. But it’s been fun so far and I think I might be good at it!

Ham!, Acrylic on Canvas Board James McCue, 2022

Live, Laugh, Pogo (After John Wayne Gacy), Acrylic on Canvas Board James McCue, 2021

I believe you and I first connected over Divine and John Waters. Would you consider them creative influences? If so, tell me about it! Divine and John Waters are all about absurdity and humor. For me they’re a reminder that you shouldn’t take life too seriously. Often when I write particularly earnestly I imagine it being read by Divine so it stays in line with my outlook on life.

Now that's an excellent Ideal Audience! You know she's not going to blow smoke...at least not in the usual way. - CC

What's really inspiring you in this moment? Anything Japanese. Like literally ANYTHING! James and I share both a love of subversive art and our status as Shibori-dyed-in-the-wool Japanophiles. I spent two years there in my childhood, and consider that time to be my greatest creative influence. I hope to share a Kirin there with him someday. - CC

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