I’ve noticed there are three levels of questions I get hit with. The most common are from raw rookies, and they fall into a single category: How do I do the basic stuff of writing ads, creating products, and putting a marketing plan into action? It’s the big test of being a teacher — the day I get mad at someone for asking me the same damn question I’ve heard four thousand times before, is the day I need to get out of the business of teaching.
The second level is from people who’ve dabbled in the advertising arts, but fall apart at the slightest obstacle. These questions often center on procrastination, how to get started on new projects, writer’s block (it’s a myth, by the way), and the details of editing badly-written first drafts.
The last level is from active marketers. Oddly enough, many of their questions mirror the more basic ones asked by rookies. You can have a fabulous success with one project, and then hit a brick wall on the next, and not be able to figure out why. The smart thing to do is to go back to the basics, and see where you went wrong.
Now, here’s the issue: There is no such thing as a dumb question. There ARE such things as “bad” questions… because sometimes you know the answer, but you want a different one (even though you know it’s not gonna happen). And I often get people asking me “stall” questions — they feel they’re actively pursuing thier project by asking me stuff, when in reality they’re just putting off sitting down and getting busy.
Great ads don’t get written by magic. It’s discipline and detective work and putting in your time at the keyboard.
Still, I get the nagging sense that there are a lot of questions that people don’t ask me, because they feel they’re too… embarrassing. These are often the most important questions to ask… because they’re sticking points. You cannot go further without the answer.
I understand this problem personally. I am mostly a self-taught guitarist, for example… so I never learned how to read music, and I couldn’t define a Dorian scale if you tortured me. (Though, I probably play leads in such a scale — I just never learned the right name for it.)
I finally took a few lessons from a great axe-man in the beach town I lived in back when I first became a freelancer. Taking those lessons was my reward (my “Miller Time”) for finishing hard jobs and meeting deadlines. He was a schooled musician, technically adept, and also a street-savvy bluesman. And, often, I wouldn’t actually have a formal lesson with him… but, rather, would spend the hour asking “dumb” questions. It was great. I finally got to fill in the gaps that were sometimes embarrassing for me. I was already “good enough” to be the lead guitarist in a band… but those small knowledge gaps made me look like an idiot. “Fixing” them made me confident enough to forge ahead with my stage life.
Now, I get to return the favor, as a teacher. If you have a burning question you’ve been hesitant to ask, now’s your chance. No one will judge you, no one will call you stupid.
For this post, just leave a comment with your question. Don’t be shy.
And, I know that in earlier posts I said I wasn’t going to accept comments. I’ve changed my mind. People have been emailing me with their comments, and I now would like you to just post them here. It will probably be slow for a time — there are still just a handfull of folks who even know about this site yet. But, if I get off my ass and start spreading the word — and you do the same — we could develop a pretty dangerous little online community here.
So please — post a comment. I’ll address the questions in subsequent posts.