in Self Improvement

Lurking fear

Or “Life as a professional word person”

In the world of writing, there are two poles. To the north, you have blogs, diaries and the doodle you made on a Post-It note that you’re just going to toss in the trash at the end of the day. The South Pole is where the real stuff happens – your novels, magazine articles, poems and other, legitimate forms of writing with stakes involved. In other words, someone other than you has to care about the words you’re producing.

Everywhere else on this planet is an uninhabitable hell hole.

Anyway, I spend my evenings up north. I blog, write terrible poems and fill the Notes app in my iPhone with inane garbage. Few people will ever read those things, so I don’t edit them. Okay, maybe when a blog post is all said and done, I go back, reread it and tweak anything that’s utter trash. I do have self respect, after all. But there’s no skin in the game.

Down south is where the real magic happens. As a copywriter, I live pretty much every single moment of my creative life in a sort of waking nightmare of self doubt. Why the hell did I just write that? What if my Associate Creative Director thinks this is garbage? Am I a fraud? These are real, actual thoughts that run through my head from the moment a project is started up until I’m sitting in a room with the client and they’re smelling exactly what I’m stepping in. I enjoy the ego boost for a single, fleeting moment. And then I get right back in the roller coaster, pull down the safety bar, and ride the whole thing again.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When the project – hell, even my paycheck – is at stake, I’m hungry. There’s a fire compelling me to question every word and every sentence. I think, and I push ideas further. I write and rewrite. I fail, and then I try again. If I’ve put in the work, I nail it. Sometimes I don’t – we creatives are nothing if not infallible – but through those missteps I learn and grow. And the writing is elevated.

I do that because the alternative is being thin-skinned, with antiquated words and ideas, occupying neither North nor South Pole, but the geographical equivalent of the Australian Outback – or the American Midwest. And living there would suck more than anything that has ever sucked, or ever will suck, in the history of mankind.