One of the things I learned along the way took me a long time to learn. Though I suppose I started learning about it when I was only three or four.
I don't know if kids still play with "magic slates," but when I was a boy, they were among my favorite toys. I loved to draw--I still do--and could doodle endlessly. The great thing about a magic slate was all you had to do was lift up the acetate sheet and you could start all over again, drawing, or writing, or thinking, or playing with a clean sheet.
For much of my career, I had a hard time lifting up my metaphorical acetate sheet. I think a lot of people, not just creatives, not just in agencies, have a hard time starting over.
They're grudging about it.
For too many years, I would write a line, or a spot, or a piece of copy. I'd examine the bejeezus out of it and conclude it was "right." I could find nothing wrong with it. I reveled in its genius. And I considered my job done, done well, and worthy of praise.
I wasn't wrong, most of the time anyway.
But I wasn't as right as I could have been.
When I started freelancing in 2014, having been fired from R\GA days earlier, I decided to get better at lifting the acetate.
I would write and write, whatever needed writing, until I was happy.
Then I'd walk to the men's room or read something online.
Then I'd go again.
I'd say, "Simpson likes lines like this." Or, "what if I led off this way." Or "can I write this in three words." Or "can this super-serious topic be funny."
I'd find twenty or twenty times twenty ways to approach a subject. I'd work on all of them..
Not because I was insecure. Because somehow I had become more secure. More sure of my ability to look at things from different angles.
In a way, I wasn't just writing ads anymore--even if writing ads was the assignment--I was rethinking the entire offering. But mostly, I was thinking.
I wasn't noodling with what I had written or worrying about Oxford commas and other bits of trivia. I set myself up as something different.
Not merely a copywriter.
But a reinventor.
It took me a long time to learn this. A long time to rid myself of arrogance, laziness and fear that give you permission not to start over. A long time to embrace a different way--a way very different from the way I had always done things.
Not wordsmithing words.
But lifting the acetate.
It took me a long time and a lot of practice to break my idèe fixe.
What if we looked at it this way--can be a pain in the ass.
And sometimes people force you into it because they're insecure and need to make you crazy.
But even if your first three or seven ideas answer the bell, there's value in keeping your foot on the gas pedal. There's value in challenging yourself. There's value in false starts.
And then there's, simply, the value of training yourself to be prolific. Being prolific helps you banish the all-too-human proclivity toward preciousness. Being prolific means you don't fall too much in love with one of the three things you did because those were the only three things you were able to do.
I've written this blog pretty much every day for the last sixteen years. And over the last night 42 months or so, I've written between 500 and 1000 ads for GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company.
During those 42 months, I've probably had 150 assignments and written about 20 ads for each assignment. That's about 3,000 ads.
There are a lot of ways you can try to make a living as a writer.
Writing is one of the best.