I’m a graphic designer.
That’s the tribe I chose decades ago and it’s become whoI am.
Graphic Design is a world of purposed creativity.
Ideas that are in service
to commerce and clients and the generation and acquisition of cash money.
It’s all about finding a good hook, putting that thing
in a place where “they”
will see it and then will pick your thing instead of the competition’s thing.
It’s about ideas generated in a short time, based on an inspired marketing
plan, and when successfully done you are celebrated with more work and
lovely trophies from your peers.
The ideas and hooks and “Aha” moments are often found
at night when your
eyes are dry and gritty from staring into a monitor for far too long.
So long that you don’t care anymore about the lengthy creative brief, or the
client’s trendy, woke, off-the-cuff insights and you finally give your mind the
space and time to run free.
Salty, greasy take away food seems to play an important role too.
The ideas are then pressed into software and beautiful pixels and
by target audiences both printed and computerized, and then blasted globally
in pursuit of “likes” and “shares”.
And money. As much money as possible.
Because that’s what matters…right?
And every bit of it is temporary.
Sale ends, year ends, special pricing ends…Friday.
Then, into the proverbial, metaphorical bird cage itgoes.
So, I was really surprised when I started writing.
It’s no less demanding, but it’s after something completely
different than design.
It wants you. And the more of you the better.
And not the you that you think you’re supposed to be or the you your
Momma wants. The real you. The “Warts and all” you as they say.
Maybe design wants the authentic “me” as well, but I sold that to my
clients so long ago I really can’t recognize it now.
I just realized that I can’t find it now.
And that hurts because I want it back…now.
With writing there are no boundaries or “creative briefs”or “sale end dates”.
Anything is possible if you can imagine it and get it down on the page.
But it pushes back hard if you try to rush it. It does not respond at all
to “I need it by 3:00 for a meeting”. It responds to a loose grip and an
easy manor, a casual indifference, like a smile and nod to an old friend
across the bar.
For me the pecking order is crystal clear; the story is in charge.
You’re working for the story, not the other way around. Sorta like
clients, but way better.
With writing, I’m finding that the best ideas come to visit me in the early
morning, like, crack of dawn early.
They like fresh coffee, the morning darkness just before sunrise, red sky
simmering through the tree branches, and me with a clear head that comes
from a good night’s sleep.
Writing outside on the front porch or on the back patio
facing the woods
really works for me. It’s the sound of the wind in the trees and bird song
that help coax deep thoughts from hidden places below fern and rock.
A sleeping dog on the chair next to me helps too.
Writing is not bound by size or final output specifications.
You don’t have to include a special offer or web site address, the only
thing it asks is that you go on the journey.
One that starts with a genuine truth. One that’s interesting, and universal,
and worthy of expanding on.
Writing extends a hand and says “Follow me, I will take you places that
you never knew existed, and once visited you will never leave…”
It can be the smallest moment that carries the biggest impact.
Like the way your mother hummed to the radio while she packed your
dad’s lunch pail every morning at the kitchen counter.
It is love and protection and emotion and physical sustenance all in Mom’s
daily routine. And all of it performed in washed out, heart patterned pajamas,
to the pop-pop rhythm of the ancient Morningstar coffee percolator, with the
beat-up Philco tube radio tuned in to the local blues review.
The DJ would say something like “Let’s watch the sun come up on another
glorious morning to the beautiful song “Summertime” by Charlie Parker.
One, two, a one, two, three…
Mother would always sway to the music and sing lyrics only half remembered,
then whistle when she didn’t have the words, and hum when her mouth was too
dry to get out a good wet whistle.
This is the glorious performance. With more truth and power than any one
scene or dialogue rehearsed to near perfection on stage or screen.
The beat coming off worn floorboards, sung with a tattered soulful voice,
seasoned by years of labor, and love, expecting little, but giving back much.
But do they, the readers have the ability and empathy to feel it?
The pure, unshakable love that comes from expecting nothing back at all?
When she had everything just right, she would close the lid, snap those
two squeaky latches closed, press the handle on the top down flat, and
then pat it 3 times.
Always 3 times.
That meant that Pop would have a good day, eat well at noon, finish the
shift and return home safely for dinner.
One, two, three…
To me that moment is the story. It’s like when an artist takes a common
item out of the world and places it on a pedestal in a gallery. Without the
world surrounding it, it becomes beauty and statement and art. And by
showing the truth of it, the viewer and the reader are changed forever.
Because it’s real, relatable, honest, and beautiful in its every day.
But you have to see it. And believe in the power of the moments that
we are sadly numb to.
The beauty of the wedding day pales after all the years.
But the reality is that you’re no less beautiful; you’re just used to it.
You’re just used to you.
Writing is like knowing how to do shading with a stick of charcoal,
making a flat circle magically become a dimensional sphere.
You just open your eyes and see it.
The light source and the shadow that it casts.
And realize that the only boundary that really exists, is you.