The Exhaustion Goldmine

Wednesday, 8:35am
Orlando, FL
The horror… the horror…


I’m sitting in my forty-year-old hotel room here at Disney World (Walt built the Contemporary as a “futuristic” hotel back in ’69 and — while not a bad place to stay — it’s got details that smack of a “B” sci-fi movie, like too much glass and aluminum under too-low ceilings) and I’m gearing up for a 13-hour ordeal flying the unfriendly skies to get home.

I’m frigging exhausted, but in a good way.

Because my mind has been violently stripped clean of extraneous thought, and I’m just too tired to dwell on much of the bullshit that occupies my brain during normal operating conditions.

It’s a Zen kind of thing. I’ve got enough energy to pack and make my final travel arrangements of shuttle, check-in, charge the iPod, etc. But mostly, my mind is clear.

I won’t bore you with the details. I flew into Orlando a week ago, to play golf with our good pal Dean Jackson (Mr. Leisure) for two days… then host a two-day intense “interactive” workshop on the inside details of writing killer copy… and THEN pull a two-hour shift onstage at Rich’s main event here, doing an interactive talk to a vast crowd of ravenous seminar attendees.

Plus, of course, there has been the usual naughty carousing behind the scenes most evenings.

I tell ya, the week’s been an adventure that would have killed a younger (and less philosophically-prepared) man. It’s certainly left me completely drained of creative energy.

Which is good.

I’m serious. I’ve known many creative types who never empty their tanks completely — they get into a comfy groove where they work regularly, but never face the physical/mental challenge of really putting their ass on the line.

The back-up of “modern” intellectual thinking piles up… and before you know it, you’re a thoughtful mess. Any Big Idea you come up with is laden with soggy baggage from other ideas you haven’t cleared out from a year before.

As my buddy Frank Kern says, you turn into a Howard Hughes clone.

One of the first lessons I learned during my quest to secure a seat at The Feast of Life was to “be a good animal”. And that requires lots of physical exertion — lots of it. Writers who don’t exercise tend to get horrific build-ups of carbon dioxide in their lungs (just for starters), which can make you permanently sleepy at the desk.

There’s also a very intriguing theory that most back pain is your body struggling to bolt from the desk and run away from the grind… the old “flight” part of our hard wiring… and since you won’t allow that, your back is in constant strain and stress.

Makes sense.

For me, the occasional balls-to-the-wall seminar event actually acts as a minor vacation for my brain. Yes, even though I’m still thinking and talking about marketing and advertising and copywriting.

It’s the physical part that matters. Shaking hands, talking to strangers, navigating airports and hotels, sleeping in a strange room… all of it brings the animal part of your nature to the forefront.

I’m all for grooves. At home, in my messy office, I have created a place where I can execute with maximum creativity and super-sharp thinking.

But if I don’t occasionally empty the tank and get a fresh perspective on things, I get dull.

Already, this morning, each non-essential thought that bubbles up just pops and vanishes. I haven’t got the juice to worry, or fret, or even try to think of solutions… other than what I need to get through the trip ahead.

I just “am”, right now. Functioning at a low stage of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

And I know, from experience, that when I’m settled in my office again tomorrow… I’ll be able to look at everything with fresh eyes and a fully-charged mind. The week has been well-spent, draining the bullshit and allowing my wounded creativity to mend and grow strong again.

Exhaustion is good, sometimes. Not as a permanent situation, of course. But when you vacation, or have a chance to saddle-up during a seminar, I suggest you take advantage of the adventure and go deep.

You can’t mine the gems in your head if the fertile part of your mind is covered with mulch.

You know what I mean?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. I’m sorry you couldn’t experience that intense, interactive 2-day workshop. I compiled — for the first time — a 17-point “menu” of the steps I’ve been going through (unconsciously) for the bulk of my career… before I sit down to write any copy.

And that’s what I taught — essentially, the core secret of how I write.

Knocking off each of these 17 points beforehand just makes copywriting zip along on a greased slide. Headlines write themselves, your close is a breeze to concoct, you hit every single classic salesmanship angle there is (including the turbulence, spicy testimonies, and specific USP elements that most rookies ignore) and on and on. You line up your ducks, and you become a sales-generating machine.

It was wicked-good fun, too, working so closely and interactively with the attendees.

I love teaching, when it’s done right. Which, again, is exhausting.

Anyway, this isn’t a pitch. This was the first time I’d ever let anyone know about this 17-point menu behind my success, and I’m just happy the workshop went off so well.

I’m considering offering it again, but we haven’t made any plans (and may not — it was, as I said, exhausting, because of all the interactive teaching) (which included tons of writing, critiquing on the spot, and going deep on every point). I totally invested myself in forcing the attendees to “get it”.

I’ve only offered four seminars on my own since starting Marketing Rebel six years ago. This workshop was a favor to Rich Schefren, a good friend and fellow marketer. And boy, does he ever owe me now. I feel like the Godfather, with a back-pocket stuffed with favors I can pull out whenever I need someone waxed.

Anyway, it’s time to haul my crap downstairs and get my head into “travel mode”. I gotta split.

My bet is, the TSA crew at the airport have been working on new indignities for passengers since my last trip through the security line…

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • […] John Carltonâ??s Big Damn Blog wrote an interesting post today on The Exhaustion GoldmineHere’s a quick excerpt Wednesday, 8:35am Orlando, FL The horror… the horror… Howdy, I’m sitting in my forty-year-old hotel room here at Disney World (Walt built the Contemporary as a “futuristic” hotel back in ‘69 and — while not a bad place to stay — it’s got details that smack of a “B” sci-fi movie, like too much glass and aluminum under too-low ceilings) and I’m gearing up for a 13-hour ordeal flying the unfriendly skies to get home. I’m frigging exhausted, but in a good way. Because my mind has been violent […]

  • Again, that is absolutely true! “Tension” means both lack of relax and strain. Like, you can’t relax unless you’ve strained before, and vice-versa. Immobility leads to tension as it does not allow us to discharge energy in order to get that much needed recharge. I suspect that’s the true cause of you call “zombie-like” behavior.

  • John:

    I get Rich’s NL, but my business partner, Jean Lorrah, led me to look at this post of yours.

    You are in a totally different business – we are fiction and non-fiction book writers, mostly HC and Mass Market, but e-book too. We teach writing online and at Science Fiction Conventions where we go to promote our work. Jean is a Professor of English and appears at academic conferences.

    We’ve found the exhaustion factor from doing these appearances to be about the same as you describe – but with a bit of a difference.

    I find I don’t need to “drain” so much as to “breathe” — the physical interaction with people is different for us.

    The people we go to SF Conventions to interact with are usually old friends, people who’ve turned up on fan Lists devoted to our novels, people we’ve known for years from one convention to another, or strangers who share our passions and therefore are already friends.

    The topic of discussion is usually the depths of fiction themes, the science bedrock behind speculative fiction, the psychology of myths like Vampires, Werewolves, etc.

    I always head for the plane afterwards madly scribbling notes for ideas for future works. I don’t get drained. I go to these events drained and return filled up with whole new ideas.

    Science Fiction conventions are becoming smaller, though, and the average age of attendees is going up. This is largely ascribed to the way younger people use the internet.

    Blogging, Social Networking sites, Lists, form a kind of interaction which does that “filling up” with new ideas.

    I blog at with 6 famous SF/F Romance Writers, and I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and YouTube. On the blog, last Tuesday, my post was actually about a list of things to do before starting to write a novel!

    Getting input on your latest novel, feedback on older ones, and getting to discuss novels other writers are just now shaping — all that can be done online.

    Then going to a few small conventions to meet up with those you’ve been interacting with becomes an opposite experience to the one you’re describing, and thus very much the same kind of experience. It’s more like going home for Thanksgiving when only the family you like will be there.

    But as I said, I’m in a totally different field. I can only wish I knew more about marketing! Maybe you’ll Link to me on LinkedIn and I’ll begin to learn more?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  • Karen says:

    yeah, we missed ya.

  • Hmmm sounds like something i’ve gotta try that John

    it’s all too easy to get into the monotony of writing and forget what it is to really WRITE properly

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