by Andy Capp
I’m writing faster than hell, I hope. They are gaining on me. I slammed the doors, drove the deadbolts home… they left it all in splinters. The walls I built of stone, yards thick and stories high, all blasted to dust. Steel, diamonds, all melted and charred in their wake. The only defense I have left are the words, only the words. Screaming them with that voice deep inside my head was good enough at one time. Now they must be carved in stone, or at least written on legal pad or typed into the computer. It’s my only hope, my last chance at salvation. Anything less and the world as I know it will be lost to me forever. Most of my dreams are too bizarre to take seriously, but the message in this one is all too clear. And, it’s been playing night after night lately.
I’ve made a change again, from Radio-land to the World of Advertising Agencies. Take radio, add pictures, freeze everything, and take away the sound. The creative I do now has ever changing variables. Nichols Media is a car shop. We do radio/TV/print for car dealers and brands all over the country. I might be voicing a tag one minute, and story-boarding a car ad to be filmed the next. It’s a whole new world, but the game is the same as it was back in the old neighborhood…make it real creative, often at breakneck speed.
All of this really leads to a question and an answer. It happened at my brother’s college graduation party this past weekend. Ours is not a close knit family. It takes events like that to get everybody together. Many of the relatives I hadn’t seen since Matt graduated from high school, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Grandma was there, a little slower with the cane, but still managing to mow her entire several-acre lawn every week, thank you. Now in her 80s, Aunt Bernice keeps on working in the hospital laundry just because, “What else would I do? Can’t just sit around all the time.” Then there was my favorite uncle, David. David was my hero when I was a kid. A South Dakota version of a hippie and an art major in the early ‘70s, David chose a life of getting back to nature and hard work as a lumberjack in the Black Hills and Wyoming. Still, the muse cannot be denied. Walking through the woods, he might look through a jagged hunk of rock, seeing the beauty inside, and then chip away to set it free with whatever tools he might have at hand. I’ll never forget the time he presented my father with the face of a lion he had carved, while his wife bemoaned the fact that he had ruined their only steak knives creating it. I remember wanting to be just like David when I grew up, and even now, although our lives couldn’t be more different, I still have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. In the chaos of my parents over-crowded house, we didn’t have much time to talk, but in the short time we had, he wanted to know about my new job. After giving him the quick verbal tour, he asked the question. “Jeez, how do you come up with all those ideas all the time?” Coming from one of the creative souls I’ve always looked up to in life, the question surprised me. The answer that immediately came out of my mouth surprised me even more. “Because I want a paycheck next week.” There is the truth. Unlike David, who now creates for the pure fun and joy of it, I create to pay the light bill. It’s not a complaint; it’s an observation, one that I had never given much thought to until now.
I suppose it’s natural when you’re making a big change in career, in life, to re-examine it all. Like the guy in the old pop commercial, I’ve had a certain amount of “agonizing reappraisal.” I’d like to report some amazing creative revelations to you. As it is, all I have are the observations of a stranger in a strange land…or maybe not so strange.
Make it real creative, fast…same game, new ballpark. Get all of your questions answered by one person. Make sure it’s the right person. Don’t listen to the wrong person. Do keep your ears open and your mouth shut so you can find out who’s right, who’s wrong. The boss is always right. Even the wrong person is right sometimes. Do SOMETHING, even when there’s nothing to do. Feeling stupid? Wise up, and find out why. Mistakes happen, often hourly at first. Don’t dwell, learn the lesson, and move on. If someone wants you to do something, do it. And, DO IT!
I make this new journey I’m on sound grim, don’t I? Chalk it up to age. Change is always tough, but even more so when you’ve been more or less at the same gig for years. I was more set in my ways than I thought I was. I want you to know that there’s a lot of fun and joy in this move too, new creative avenues to explore, new creative minds to explore them with, new ways to get that adrenaline rush I’ve grown addicted to over the years. The dream I told you about at the onset is not a nightmare, it’s my way of life, and I love it, even when I say I hate it. Like a shark, if I stop moving, I’ll sink to the bottom. If I can keep afloat, I’ll let you know how the water is.