At one point in the distant past, someone came to me and asked “Have you ever considered writing professional marketing for aspirational companies of all sizes?” Since my power was disconnected at the time, I replied “Sure, I’ll try it.” And I started writing.
In my first piece of writing, I found it difficult to work in the phrase “committed to quality and dedicated to excellence” and the client was not pleased. But I’m a quick learner. And the power company doesn’t flip things back on based on a promise.
As time went on, I discovered that clients got really happy when stuff I wrote earned them money. And I subsequently discovered that when my clients were happy, I had the luxury of leaving two, sometimes even three moderately-sized lamps on at a time. They were good times.
After writing for 19 different financial institutions, I was approached about a project for a 20th. As I started to type “Equal Housing Lend – ” I stopped. I wouldn’t do it. “BANK ADS DON’T HAVE TO BE DULL AND FLAVORLESS!” I cried out into the dark. (The power wasn’t off, sometimes I just write in the dark.) And I proposed the following ad series:
City Small Business Banking – Ad Series
Spurred by the client’s initial reaction, I joined the Merchant Marines. Being naturally good at most things, I was shocked at what a colossally bad idea joining this group was. Not only do I despise boats, water, and syphilis, but I look terrible in white and most other light and dark colors. I was also very disappointed how many points they deducted when I could not complete one simple pull-up during the physical testing. This was the period when my nickname was briefly transitioned from Dabs to Flabs, and was the inspiration for the radio commercial that follows (swabbing the deck was not paying the bills, so I continued to write marketing on the side).
I was riding high from the accolades from this commercial. Plus the Merchant Marines “suggested” I pursue other interests after the incident that came to be known as “The Unnatural Berth.” As I travelled the country, people would shout to me in the streets – “Loved your radio commercial!” and “I’ve never been so interested in classified advertising!” and “Don’t eat that, it’s not dry yet!” I was king of the world. Clients were calling me to write all sorts of advertising and marketing for them.
And some serious people who tuck their ties into their shirts when they eat called me and asked if I could write things that didn’t include the word “toenail.” So I wrote stuff for them too. Like brochures about fiduciary conglomerates, videos spotlighting CEOs and COOs and BFDs. Stuff like this…
And I wrote even more stuff for more people. Even though it sometimes made my brain hurt and yearn for my carefree days in the Merchant Marines. But when things got the bleakest, and I would think “Is it better to insert the garden hose into the back or front window of the car?” someone would approach me with something that would pique my interest. Like the client who asked me to collaborate and write the character cards and instructions for a board game about advertising…
And some dude asked me to write a digital storybook about Young Thomas Edison… so I made one up.
But something was missing. Sure, I was bring unbridled joy to hundreds of millions of people, and spawning one Fortune 500 company after another, but there HAD to be something more. And then it hit me. Self-pleasure. For years, I had used my gift to help others, but what was in it for me? Why should others be the only ones able to enjoy the bon mots that flippantly flow forth from my keyboard? SO I started by writing a newsletter.
But I quickly realized that I was still inadvertently delighting others by letting them read the newsletter. My moral compass and rampant laziness prevented me from continuing the newsletter. I was at the end of my rope.
I decided to give up writing altogether.
What once seemed like a gift, now felt like a curse. I would never again write… for myself or others… unless…
Now I spend my days sitting idly by my computer. Feverishly not writing. Waiting. For that one writing assignment. The elusive white whale of copywriting. The project to end all projects. A job that would push my limits as a writer. And as a man. A job with a ridiculous budget that would make even Warren Buffet blush.
As you can see, I’m still waiting… and it’s not pretty.
So, are you my white whale?