Thursday, September 26, 2019


There’s not a person anywhere, certainly not a person in advertising, who doesn’t get stuck now and again. That italicized word stuck in this context has two meanings.

You often find yourself stuck and unable to come up with an idea.

That’s a painful feeling, a frightening feeling. Especially in today’s parlous era when there’s zero tolerance for failure and zero time to think.

It doesn’t matter that there are three other teams on the assignment, or you have a partner who always comes through. You’re facing the page and you’re stuck.

The second stuck is feeling stuck in a job. Feeling, as we all do at times, underpaid, under-appreciated and over-worked. And there’s nothing out there. Nobody’s clamoring for you—or even returning calls. You’re stuck.

There’s no magic anti-adhesive you can take when you’re stuck. There’s no inspirational cat poster or screaming life-coach who can whack you in the head until you see the light. As far as I know, there’s no bonafide pharmaceutical that can regenerate lost confidence.

All you can do is this.


When I’m stuck, and even after 40 years and 6000 blog posts I am often, you can’t wallow in your stuckiness.

You have to do something.

After all, the more time you allow yourself to be immobilized, the less time you have to work, the more likely that is to heighten your stuck feeling.

I usually do two things.

First, I give myself a really austere deadline. Yesterday morning, for instance I had five fairly onerous things to do for a giant pressure-cooker of a meeting tomorrow. I have been given a ton of information, but none of it was organized and there’s really nothing that even vaguely resembles a brief.

Sorry, work is like that some times. It will do you no good to think that such conditions are situational. They’re chronic. As in everywhere, all the time.

I said to myself, I will do the hardest one first and be done with it by 11. Then I’ll take an easy one and be done by 11:30. Then a hard one and be done by 1.

It’s two now. And I’ll have the remaining two things I have to do—easy ones done by 3:30.

You get things done by doing them. If you’re a writer, just start writing. It’s easier to start over when you’ve already started. It’s easier to rewrite once you’ve written something.

It’s also easier to push something out and then respond to feedback than to tie yourself in knots.

So write something. It doesn't have to be perfect. Write something. Pretend you're blindfolded, and type. Trust yourself.

As for the bigger stuck, the stuck in a place, do the same thing.

Say, by the end of the week I will make five calls, or send five notes. The next week, the same thing.

You can’t make people call you back. But they never will if you don’t put yourself out there. 

A long time ago I shot a bunch of spots with Errol Morris. I went to casting with him, waiting to see his special genius at work.

When actors showed up he had them stand on a piece of tape.

“Do something,” he’d say.

If he liked what they did he had some further brilliant direction: “Do something different.”

That’s good enough for me.

Do something.

No comments: