There was a story I used to read to my daughters called Strega Nona, by Tomie di Paola.
In it, Big Anthony is asked by Strega Nona to watch over her magic pasta pot. Big Anthony gets curious and asks the magic pot for pasta. But he doesn't know how to make the pasta stop flowing. In short order, their small town is covered in pasta.
Every once in a while, a client calls me and says, "George, I need your help. My website sucks. Can you make it unsuck?"
I'm an inherently generous person--most creatives are. We like to lend our minds and whatever skill we have in helping clients.
So, I say yes.
It happened to me not long ago.
But the due-date was far in the future. So while I usually attack jobs right away, this one I put off.
In fact, I put it off too long. To the point where I'm in trouble.
Ok, I said to myself, don't panic. Take one page at a time. Do that page. Then do the next. And you'll get through it in no time.
When I'm given a job like this one, I always do the groundwork first. I make a folder. Download the files. And build the shell of a copy-deck.
I find those operations tedious. But important. If I do them before I start writing, in a sense I know what I have to do and where it all is. It's like measuring out ingredients before you cook a meal. It's onerous. But ultimately time-saving.
Here's where Strega Nona and Big Anthony come in.
The copy I'm re-writing--the copy the client's written keeps getting longer. When I rewrite five lines, twelve more appear. I rewrite a subhead, and the bottom of the page explodes with 18 more I have to do.
The copy keeps going and growing and spilling, filling and killing like Strega Nona's pasta pot. I don't know the magic words to shut it off.
I've rewritten all the headlines.
Nine more appear.
I've taken out 62 instances of the word ecosystem, 91 more pop up. I remove those 91, 132 more appear.
I cross out storytelling. Then...
It doesn't stop.
It never ends.
It keeps on coming.
And that, my friends, is my nightmare.
And my life as a very one-person agency.