By Trent Rentsch
Since we’ve known each other for quite awhile now, I think it’s safe to confess one of my weaknesses to you. No, it’s not my obsessive collecting of audio software, nor my total and complete lack of discipline when it comes to over-eating and/or exercise; it’s not even my soft spot for cats, magicians, and Bugs Bunny cartoons… old territory, water under the bridge, been there/wrote about that. This lack of strength is less superficial, at least to me. It starts with a blank screen, save for a blinking cursor. Where it ends? That’s the by-product of the weakness.
You might remember that I’ve spent a number of months (more than I’d like to think about) looking for work. Creative work, hopefully, filled with the need of words and voice and audio… all of which I have spent my professional life Creating. As the time went by, I nearly became convinced that I would need to look outside the Creative world to pay the light bill. This was a sobering option for a guy who has spent nearly 3 decades honing the ability to write a compelling case for buying used cars or putting a voice to a talking frying pan or assembling the sound of an alien space craft crashing into a pool filled with Jell-O. Let’s be honest; how often would those skills come into play at, oh, say, the Home Depot?
Luckily, life saved me the embarrassment of trying to spin these odd little talents I’ve picked up into a feeble case that I deserved to be hired in the “real” world. I found a job in territory I’m familiar with; the land of audio and silly voices and persuasive words. To say it’s great to be working again is an understatement, and to say that I’m in a Creative position again feels something of a Godsend. So, all is right with the world… except that damned blinking cursor.
I believe that Creative souls need the power of “new” to recharge their batteries. I know I’ve trotted out that particular song and dance more than once in this column over the years. You stay in one place too long, you get stagnant; the Creative well might not go completely dry, but what’s left in the bottom can become old and stale without refilling it with new places, new experiences. I’ve said it many times and I believe it. But now that I’m facing it on a daily basis, it’s causing me no end of blank pages and blinking cursors.
Change is scary, and it’s not just the water. New streets, new faces, new office, new bathroom… new, new, new. I’m typing this at my new computer desk in my new apartment. The computer and keyboard are old, but the monitor is new… as is all my furniture. The view out the window I face, even after 2 months, still seems alien, as does the grocery store I now shop at and the washer and dryer in the little closet down the hall. Yes, I have a few little things “from home,” but even these knick knacks are in new, unaccustomed places.
It’s exciting to make a big change, move to the big city and have a great new Creative job, but at the same time, it’s stifling. Coming home to an empty apartment at the end of the day, I miss my wife, our house, and our goofy cats. I’m reminded that, as much as I believe in the power of new experiences for Creatives, I personally hate change. And when I sit in front of my computer, it weighs on me, and promotes the blank screen, save for the blinking cursor.
I have been here before, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it has. I’ve been trying to remember how I coped with these feelings before, and it seems that I didn’t actually cope so much as work through it all. So much of what we do Creatively comes from who we are, what we experience, how we feel… putting a mirror up to our own emotions, those things that persuade us, in order to find what might persuade customers to beat down our clients’ doors. If I am truthful, in the past I’ve probably written a lot of spots based on feeling alone and isolated, a stranger in a strange land just looking for a place where everybody knows the stranger’s name… and where they can get two pizzas for the price of one.
Emotion is truth, and listeners will spin the dial on a spot that has no feeling. Whatever you’re feeling when you’re writing/producing a commercial might be exactly what the listener is feeling. Don’t be afraid of your true emotions, embrace them. It’s not weak to be scared… or frightened, or angry, or joyful. It’s human… and so is your audience.