The Mantra or how to find grace in copywriting.

April 27, 2009

images-17
I still haven’t found the tag line I’m looking for.

Featured in the lyrics of U2’s exceptional new album, No Line On The Horizon is this exhortation from Bono: “I found grace inside a sound. I found grace that’s all I’ve found.” On an earlier track he beseeches (God?) to “let me in the sound…let me in the sound.” Over and over again. Until he finds grace. And then he can “breathe again.”

God, I love U2. Whereas some tire of Bono’s grandiose soul searching and God-filled exhortations I can’t get enough. Many years ago, when it dawned on me that U2 was making music primarily about God and the search for Him something clicked. Here was a rock band looking for greater meaning and not a cold one or a hot piece of ass. Nothing wrong with singing about beer and women but eventually we grow up –or try to anyway.

But if the popular reading of U2’s lyrics is about searching for God, there is another view and one I think all readers here can appreciate: Bono is singing about creativity. You know… when it’s just you and the keyboard, looking for words, playing with an idea, shaping and rearranging it until it’s almost perfect? That. That moment of Zen is what he is singing about. This is where he finds grace.

When I sit down with a brief, I begin hunting for one true thing I can say or express about the client I’m being asked to advertise. If I hit upon something then I go about trying to prove it out in a paragraph or two. We call this a mantra. Writing a mantra is akin to making art. We do not just hash something together. We roll the words around like stones in a rock tumbler until they are perfect. We find grace.

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7 Responses to “The Mantra or how to find grace in copywriting.”

  1. jim schmidt said

    advertising and pop music are, at their core, both forms of fantasy enablement, so they do share that as well. and as far as songs about God (or god) go, i think john lennon pretty much nailed the subject on his first solo record. which, i believe, u2 payed homage to years later.

  2. Todd Piotrowski said

    Advertising and U2 are child’s play compared to what Charlie Daniels sang about in “The Devil went down to Georgia.”

    I mean, what tests your talent and creativity better than having your soul on the line?

  3. SRP said

    Jim-
    The only difference re Lennon and U2 is that John was cynical about God and Bono is passionate. That said I imagine (no pun intended) both found immense satisfaction while in the zone of creating/writing, which is what this post is also about.

  4. jim schmidt said

    don’t know if lennon was cynical, i believe he thought that what mattered most was life before death, and used the song to speak to that notion. i actually think that in the end, bono might really be the cynical one.

  5. I personally believe that god is a creative force, and in our most transcendent moments, we are awakening a bit to our role in the creation.

    I used to be a huge U2 fan, but the “Pop” album turned me off of them. Still really like “Unforgettable Fire” and “Achtung Baby” though.

  6. Andy Webb said

    “I believe in the kingdom come
    Then all the colors will bleed into one
    Bleed into one
    Well yes I’m still running”

    Who writes better, richer imagery than that in the rock music genre? A copywriter could draw inspiration from such lines.

    Thanks for the post, Steffan.

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