Creative Essay: Believe, Start

By Dick Paetzke

Many years back, I swapped my position as a senior account manager on the largest account in the Seattle office of McCann-Erickson, for that of a copywriter. I moved from a large and prestigious office with a Puget Sound view to an office one-third the size, with a view of the roof of the YWCA.

It wasn’t a whimsical decision and I hadn’t been demoted. In fact, I’d rescued our relationship with our biggest account by hijacking and writing an entire campaign for the client when our creative department failed to come up with anything but inappropriate and useless ideas.

When I sat down for the first time at a my much downsized and less imposing desk, I was struck by a terrifying idea: “Just because I have written acclaimed creative pieces once, what if I can’t to it again? What if I am a one-trick pony?”

Well, I did it again and I have been doing it over and over for several decades since, facing the white bull of the blank page until it blinked first.

In that time I discovered two secrets that let me win. Maybe they apply only to me, but I suspect they might be useful to others.

The first is faith. I look at creative talent as a God-given gift, not something I can take personal credit for, so it is no source of ego. But like God, I have to believe that it is there, always and inexhaustibly there. That takes away fear, which is paralyzing.

And then I have to do my part. I have to start. I start writing. I start to do research. I start asking new questions.

What I first write may be clumsy, trite and little more than babbling. But the human brain is an amazing thing. It ferrets out, synthesizes, rearranges all kinds of information, concepts, thoughts and who knows what – as long as you allow it to do so.

I always discover that as I write, the nature and quality of what I have written changes, almost as though all by itself. New ideas and approaches pop into my head while I’m in the shower, or driving my car. I keep a pencil and paper by my nightstand because I am frequently awakened in the middle of the night by possible solutions.

All this has nothing to do with anything I consciously will myself to do. It’s just because the gift is like a fountain that keeps running over, whether you are consciously “there” or not. If you are foolish enough to doubt it, or too fearful or lazy to even start, you shut it down.

As I said, this is the way it works for me. The only way anyone ever knows is to do two things. Believe. Start.

Dick Paetzke (Dick Paetzke Creative Directions) is the most experienced advertising writer in the Pacific Northwest. He is at work on publishing his new book, Postcards: Little Letters from Life.

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