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Is it just me or did 2016 seem to fall down the stairs like a bag of groceries? Rolling cans, broken bottles and a lot of F bombs.  Even Christmas couldn’t save it. In my view, the holidays only added literal and emotional hangovers to an already jittery society. Like kicking a dead horse.

Maybe it was our interminable Presidential election: a bitter race between two people no one really liked, barely won by a nincompoop. The whole thing was a shit show, democracy at its nadir.

Red vs Blue. Cop vs Citizen. Black vs White. The election was but a symptom of a country in turmoil. The European Union fared no better. Britain was torn away from Europe like a scab. A wound that won’t heal soon, as refugees flood into struggling countries, running away from places that are even worse.

Our world has never felt more dangerous and divided than it did in 2016. Here and abroad, animosities festered and boiled over. “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” felt less like a classic movie than a means to obliterate people.

Despite all, I am and always will be an optimist. I believe in renewal and recovery; I have seen it happen every day. It’s always darkest before the dawn and though winter has most definitely come the cold, clear dawn of January might be just what we all need.

If what you need in the new year is glass way full copywriting, content creation or creative leadership look me up: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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“It’s called addiction, imp.”

For several years, I could only roll my eyes at the growing legion of Game Of Thrones devotees. Kind of likened them to wizard nerds and overgrown fan boys. Then, um, I decided to actually watch an episode.

I was a fool. The show, as everyone reading this probably knows, is excellent. So much so that I am not going to spend another moment writing about GOT.

I have a confession. I have also not watched a lick of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos or True Detective. All shows I know I would love. Why? It’s simple. If I do something once and like it I am probably going to do it again, compulsively, and to the detriment of other often healthier things.

For example, since I started in on GOT I spent the last five nights watching as many episodes as I could. Therefore, I did not write a new blog post. Nor did I finish reading my book. I had homework from the office that remained untouched. I stayed up too late, causing me to skip a workout, which, by the way, is something “healthier” I am also addicted to.

You see I am an addict. While binge watching House of Cards might be fine for you “normal” people it is dancing with the devil for me. As it is, I am already hooked on several other shows: Mad Men, Workaholics, Silicon Valley and The Walking Dead. I relish the return of The Strain and I am feverishly anticipating Fear the Walking Dead in July.

Until last week, those were more than enough “content” for this content zombie. And now I’ve got multiple seasons of GOT to devour.

I am a very selfish man. Look at me from the outside and one sees a person who primarily does things that makes him feel good. I want to be there for my family and office. Alas, myriad distractions prevent me from doing so. Too many distractions from life and they become life. And so I must be careful.

In my bones I know breaking away from Breaking Bad would be next to impossible. I might as well be snorting meth.

But even now I grow antsy. Restless. I can’t stop scratching the remote. It’s only 1 AM. What’s another hour?

Where… Are… My… Dragons?

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From the darkness, new growth.

Important resolutions are not necessarily calendar bound. The things I’ve had to start or stop doing in order to be a better person have rarely required a calendar in which to be wholly obvious. Perfect example. Ten years ago I ended a notorious drinking career early in spring, four months after the frigid first day of January in Chicago. Unfortunately, the previous New Year’s came too soon for me. I wasn’t ready. And I’d have been a fool to wait for the next. Maybe even a dead fool.

A while back –not on New Year’s- I resolved to let go of anger, an emotion I cannot process like normal people. I don’t turn into the Hulk but whenever I get angry I lose much of my ability to reason. Even righteously angry, I simply can’t argue my points effectively. I get tantrum-y. Best to let it go.

January 1st, 2013 is fortuitous. This New Year finds me in a new city with a new job and a new home for my family. To be sure, those are good things. However, I need realignment right here right now. Stock has been taken and much was found lacking.

Were it as simple as losing a few pounds. Like most true self-improvement efforts, the matter is personal. Yet, I find it helpful (maybe even crucial) to put my intention in writing. Publishing it furthers accountability. I realize my vocation (the mythmaking of copywriting) hardly qualifies as precedent for truth telling. Still, when it comes to personal issues in my case uttered words have been utterly insufficient. Maybe one day. But until then written and published words are better.

Actions speak louder than words. Albeit small, writing is an action, a first step in the resolution process. God willing and with good intentions, come spring I will show new growth.

I only know one prayer by heart. For me it’s a fitting way to start the New Year: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.


Either way you lose…

Most people (myself included) would like to think they’re open-minded and subsequently put off by those who are not: the arrogant, the dogmatic and the righteous. Those people are the reason our world is so challenged. Those are the ones bringing us down. And, of course, “those people” feel the same way about us.

Them and us are polar opposites. Two distinct sides: liberal & conservative, democrat & republican, right & left. The euphemisms are many. In good times these dichotomies serve like checks and balances, mitigating extremism, keeping society on the beam.

Alas, these are not good times. Righteous anger is overtaking civil discourse. The Occupiers demonize the rich. The 1% shuns the poor. Our President hates America! The GOP candidates are a bunch of idiots! Build a wall around the country! Let everyone in!

Ugh.

I need pause from it all. As a person who fancies himself open minded, I resent being pushed to one extreme or the other. I don’t want to take a side and live or die by it. Why must I choose between Capitalism and Socialism? (If I must, I choose the former. Who, in this country wouldn’t, especially those of us in advertising?) Yet, both ideas are as flawed by extremism as they are brilliant in their idealism.

And speaking of “isms” aren’t they all dangerous?

Take alcoholism. Recovery from this cunning and baffling disease suggests alcoholics practice accepting other people’s defects so that they might diminish their own. “Easy does it” and “One day at a time” are the well-known catch phrases of Alcoholics Anonymous. Resentments of any kind are considered detrimental to recovery.


Wisdom from a church basement…

And so I worry about America’s growing extremism. A program of recovery suggests we “let go of old ideas” even as our politicians become evermore paralyzed by theirs. The holidays are upon us. That means discourse. And next year begins the real Presidential campaign. That means debate. Before taking up sides, I urge each of US to be more accepting of THEM, and vise versa.


Dreaming in long copy…

When addicts stop using drugs and alcohol they are commonly beset by drinking and drugging dreams. Usually occurring within the first year of abstinence these dreams can be strikingly vivid. The addict often wakes up highly agitated, believing completely he or she has fallen off the wagon. Even upon realizing it’s only a dream, the phenomenon can be highly disturbing. Addicts and alcoholics feel as though they have betrayed their sobriety, almost like a relapse.

Not to connect the dots but…

Having left Adland 5 months ago, I had my first (recollected) advertising dream the other night. I was younger (a man can dream!) and working on a luxury car account. The crux of the dream had me pitching concepts to one of my first bosses and mentors, Ted Bell. (Ted is now retired from advertising and a best-selling author of thrillers like Warlord and Assassin.)

If he was my boss that means the place was likely Leo Burnett and the account Oldsmobile… even if the car in my dream was a snazzy convertible, unlike anything Olds used to make.

Regardless, I remember trying to make wordplay about drivers having an “open mind” for the open top vehicle. I can’t recall the exact copy but either way Ted wasn’t buying it. “People don’t need an open mind to want one of these cars,” he kept repeating. Why I kept fighting him on the point I don’t know; but I was. Needless to say, the boss is always right. Even in your dreams. Upon waking, I realized my idea was silly and sophomoric. Very “spec book.”

Yet, what disturbed me most about the dream wasn’t the mediocre concept but rather my dogged determination to prevail. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I kept trying to make a case for my silly open minds concept.

Sound familiar? Who among us doesn’t remember pushing way too hard our first concepts? The relentless young creative is so commonplace it’s basically a cliché. In a recent AdAge interview, famed adman and now teacher, Luke Sullivan stated his biggest regret was “having an insane amount of certainty” as a young copywriter.

And there I was trying to force my boss to have an open mind!