Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bad Teacher

"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me." -- Noel Coward.

Because it so aptly sums up my feelings, I've lifted this quote from the Facebook page of my good friend Jim, who is moving to NYC.

I had dinner with Jim and another good friend last week and the evening turned into quite the laugh fest. As I drove home with a belly full of rattlesnake sausage and wheat beer, I couldn't help thinking we should have done this more often.

Prior to that, my wife and I had dinner with another couple who we also hadn't seen in quite some time.

Again, I thought, we should do this more often.

As if all that socializing weren't enough (my daughters insist I'm a hermit), I also broke bread with some old advertising buddies that I hadn't seen in a good decade.

Not surprisingly, all these friends are writers. Also not surprising was the common topic of discussion, "What's next?" As well as the inevitable, "I'm going to be teaching."

Let's be clear, my mother didn't raise a fool.

I know that as a 44 year old freelance copywriter my days in the ad business are numbered.

Sure, I can whip up a manifesto faster than you can you say "an anthemic chest-beating puff piece meant to deceive the public and mask our contemptible desire for profits, profits and even more profits."

And yes I can have ten headlines written before the planner has read the entire brief to me verbatim.

And, if need be, I can even concoct some digital interactive brand engagement unit that involves hash tagging, uploading and instagramming who-knows-what, that will unlock the door that leads to the vault that houses the key to open the purse that reveals the coupon for 15% off your next purchase of steel-belted radial tires.

I can do all that. I don't think those skills disappear when you reach the age of 45, but I guess I'll find out next year.

What I do know is that I'm not cut out for teaching.

Teachers are underpaid.
And overworked.
And neither sounds appealing.

Moreover, apart from chess or 9th grade Algebra (which I have surprisingly retained), what would I teach? Copywriting?

Copywriting often comes from the ether. Synapses fire. Thoughts are born. And discarded. More thoughts, better thoughts evolve. Then words magically show up on the page. That's my process.

I know bad writing when I see it. And I see so much of it. But have no idea how to codify the process that leads to good copywriting.

Moreover, I have the patience of a flea.
A New York flea.
With ADD.

Finally, even if I could master the curriculum and reign in my temper, there's the distinct possibility that my classroom would be populated by eager young attractive women in their twenties.

I don't want to appear immodest but I can't imagine how they would be able to concentrate or glean anything of any value while being instructed by so much eye candy.


Crockywriter said...

"And yes I can have ten headlines written before the planner has read the entire brief to me verbatim."

I want to add something else to your discourse. I recently discovered something worse than a planner. And that is: a planner with no vision and poor understanding of how a creative concept works. Not only is it shameful, since they are supposed to be the "big picture" people, but it's detrimental to an agency as a whole.

- FIN -

bob stein said...

I left the business in 2006 after a long career. Three years later I started graduate school and found my way into teaching lower division college humanities classes. I now teach rhetoric, not advertising, but the former is the foundation of the latter.

I miss aspects of the business, like the funny, stimulating and smart-ass banter with colleagues, as well as the thrill of the chase when selling work to clients. I don’t miss the chronic anxiety, wondering when the axe will fall and the posing, at which I sucked.

Teaching has merit, not the least of which it is noble. Not a word I would apply to working in advertising. It forces continuous learning, which feeds the insatiable curiosity found in successful advertising people. It also rewards thinking, if you like thinking.

On the other hand, there is little money in it and virtually no power, unless you consider you are influencing minds or at least trying to influence minds. Plus, there are no expense paid trips to LA in January for a shoot, or to the All Star game in July for a schmooze.

Copywriting can be codified for instruction and I expect culling through your posts would yield a trove of stuff for you to teach. What can’t be codified is talent. Some of your students will have it, many will not; just like in the real world.

I’m glad I teach. I enjoy it. I’m also glad I spent 30 years working in advertising before becoming a teacher. Otherwise, I would know considerably less about how the world works and probably not have enough money to eat.

Adasaurus said...

Do you ever notice that as the ability to major in communications and advertising grows the quality of the creative shrinks. I come from a generation of great copywriters that started in the mailroom.

glasgowdick said...

Oddly enough, I started in the mailroom.