Like many other copywriters I am sure, we look for inspiration anywhere we can. Sometimes ideas can come from the weirdest of places. AND you don’t expect these inspirational moments to change the way you work… but this one did!
I stumbled across the YouTube video of Louis CK and his emotional tribute to the one and only George Carlin. This 10 minute video may not change your life, but it did mine. In it Louis CK speaks honestly about writing comedy, and it really resonated with me about writing copy. Then he says that his own newfound creativity was spurred on by George Carlin’s prolific work habits.
How? Every year, George Carlin would create a brand new hour of comedy material, and before he started, he would throw out every single one of his old jokes. He would start from scratch.
Now, I ask you… as a creative, do you re-use some of your old material? Do you re-work an old idea that you thought was good, just to save time?
Sure, you worked hard on creating it originally, but do you just go through the motions of simply recrafting it to make it work?
Anyway, back to the video… Louis CK was in no position to question Carlin, who he considered to be a comedy genius. Louis CK was broke, doing the same material for 15 years night in, night out. His jokes weren’t funny, and he had nothing else to fall back on.
So… Louis CK threw everything out, everything, and started over.
Guess what? It worked.
Louis CK told deeper, more interesting jokes, material that now resonated and connected with his audience. He wrote about his life, his family, and the world as he saw it.
I felt I was pretty much in the same situation with my writing, so I followed his example. I threw out my 20 plus years of a ‘Swipe File’. That’s a 3 drawer cabinet overstuffed and overflowing with old material, scripts, posters, ads, and ideas. Now… it’s all gone.
As a result, I feel I have become more creative. This purge was freeing, liberating, and believe it or not, it unleashed a flurry of fresh material and ideas. It turns out that my old habits were holding me back.
I have started to do new things, from more creative commercial scripts, to starting to consult with clients about writing their web copy and print ads. I’ve even started pushing myself to write that dream novel I have always wanted to write.
Let George Carlin and Louis CK be an example you emulate. Search for something better, be creative, and you’ll discover that old thoughts, habits and ways of working that you always did, are holding you back.
Be creative. Be an inspiration. Be yourself, and don’t rely on the crutch of your old material or ideas, don’t let them hold you back. Destroy, delete and throw out your old material, and you too will become more creative.
Earl Pilkington works as a copywriter for West Coast Radio in Western Australia. He has mentored on-air talent, audio producers, journos and others inside and outside the industry, including TV, newspaper, voice talent and students. Earl welcomes your correspondence at