“I’ve given it all she’s got, Cap’n. If I push any harder, the whole thing’ll blow!” Scotty, Chief Engineer, US Enterprise NCC1701
Wednesday’s little quiz really stirred up a shit-storm (so to speak).
I am shocked — SHOCKED — at the level of potty-mouthed dialog that went on in the comments section.
Okay, actually, I’m laughing so hard my stomach hurts.
Thanks, guys. Really. From deep in my heart, I appreciate all the shared wisdom and wild-ass stabs at delivering the answer to the question: “What is Rule #3 for Physically Maintaining A Kick-Ass Writer’s Existence.”
I’m sorry I couldn’t comment during the brawl that broke out, but I was on the road. Strict radio silence.
As it turns out, the winner roared across the finish line just a few minutes after the post hit RSS feeds. I’m just really glad the answers continued to pour in, anyway.
I’ll reveal the lucky fella in just a moment.
… drum roll, please…
… The Correct Answer:
… “Be A Good Animal”.
That’s polite code for purging your tubes — all of ’em — regularly.
This includes your intake tubes…
… your elimination tubes…
… your reproduction tubes…
… and every other tubage that processes snot, shit, wax, oil, hormones, lube, sweat, and all the other fluids and quasi-solids produced by your system.
(Are you blushing yet?)
You can’t write when any part of your animal structure is constipated — including the usual back-ups…
… AND the metaphysical stuff like emotional blockages and stockpiled anger.
Every great writer I’ve ever met knows about the need to be a good animal. Pick your favorite beast, and use it as an Avatar.
Puma. Tiger. Lion. Hyena. Meercat. Whatever.
Stay clean, lean and mean… and keep all body parts functioning at primo levels.
(By the way, not all great writers follow this advice. Ignoring this rule is how you get your Hemingways and your Hunter Thompsons and your Kerouacs… brilliance gone to shit, and even suicide, because the system broke down from abuse.)
Look — I’m no tea-totaller.
Just ask the crew of writers I invited to this last Hot Seat seminar in San Francisco. We channeled the Algonquin Table every night… and there’s a good chance the rumors you’ve heard are true.
It was an over-the-top blast.
You get a bunch of thirsty writers together for longer than an hour, and stand back. The verbal riots will not be televised.
However, there were overtones of moderation, even as we bent elbows till they tossed us out on the sidewalks.
Cuz we had a job to do… and our strict professionalism demanded fealty to the gig.
And that’s the key: Moderation.
Yes, it’s a cliche.
Good animals indulge in life with gusto, and eagerly embrace vivid, reality-crunching experience.
But they are also serious about recovery, and about maintaining a near-perfect Zen-like balance before and after those bouts with excess.
Don’t let yourself get constipated, on any level, in any part of your system.
That’s the rule.
The details of how you clean your pipes are up to you.
God knows there were plenty of detailed examples in the comment section.
I am SO pleased with all of you. I think folks will be talking about this little quiz for a long time.
Okay — the winner:
The fourth person to chime in.
Nice work. To win your prize — a fresh, signed copy of “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Markeing Rebel” — simply reply to any email you’ve gotten from us to your main email address, Jesus. (Easiest would be the email notification you get when a new post appears in this blog.)
Put something about winning the blog quiz in the subject line. And give us your mailing address.
My personal assistant, Diane, will take care of everything else.
There were lots and lots of honorable mentions in the mob. Too many to name.
And nearly as many dishonorable mentions. Some of those were my favorites. (Kevin, Lorrie, Nathan, Matt… you should all be ashamed of yourselves.) (In a good way, of course. You all gave excellent insight to how real, working writers navigate their day.)
That was just a load of fun.
Thanks to everyone who made my day by making me laugh… and think… and realize there are still many different ways to skin a cat. So to speak.
Have a great weekend, will ya?
P.S. For the record…
… I’m writing this P.S. late on Saturday, and I want it noted that I’ve received several Twitter notes from people who DID blush reading this.
They just didn’t want to come out and admit it in the comments here.
Folks: It’s okay to not be a ribald, sex-obsessed, semi-degenerate as a copywriter.
However, most of the best do tend to lean to the dark side. And, truth be told, they actually enjoy the atmosphere there, and jive well with the company.
Just note that for future reference, and get back to writing as well as you can, using what you have in your Bag of Tricks.
But also, you should congratulate yourself for daring to peek into the darkness a little bit. No one will fault you for blushing.
Shyness and inexperience can be overcome.
The ONLY thing that disqualifies you from eventually becoming “great” as a writer (fiction, nonficition, or copy)…
… is cowardice.
We have to go where most fear to tread. We have to buck up and see the world as it is, not as we wish it were or believe it ought to be.
Writers need to be realists. And embrace reality, good or bad.
It’s not a gig for wussies.
Las Vegas, NV
“Goan ta Lost Wages, Lost Wages…” (Steely Dan)
Got a new question for ya. And I’d love to hear what you think the answer is.
Please post your shot in the comments section below.
I’ll read ’em all (and you should, too) cuz the input that comes in via these little quiz thingies is often pure gold.
However — just to keep it interesting — the FIRST right answer scores a free copy of “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” (or a copy of the about-to-finally-be-re-released “Freelance Course”).
Unfortunately, you’ll have to engage your brain for this one. I kinda doubt there’s more than a handful of folks out there tuned in enough to actually know the right answer.
I’ll reveal everything on Friday, after I get back from this grueling road-trip I’m on. (Currently in Sin City for the SANG thang — goofing off and hanging out with the likes of Jeff Walker, Rich Schefren, Brian Johnson, Mike Koenigs, Stephen Pierce, Shawn Casey, Joe Sugarman, and too many more to name here.)
(Just heard Tony Robbins last night — great talk, and my mind is still racing from what he shared with us.) (Hint: How to thrive in the world as the economy plays out its destiny according to historical trends.)
(Also saw Paula Abdul, of American Idol, give her first public talk. I’ve got photos.)
(More on all this in a later post. I’ve got an iffy Web connection here in the Wynn suite that’s been my home for several days, and I just wanna touch base here… and rile things up a bit until I get back home.)
So here’s the quiz:
In a recent Twitter dogfight I was having with some other marketers, I inadverttantly revealed my 4 Health Rules For Physically Maintaining A Kick-Ass Writer’s Existence.
At least, I revealed 3 of the steps.
I just couldn’t bring myself to name the missing one (Step #3).
Cuz, you know… well, it can make people blush.
And, from what I’ve been told, it’s not nice to make people blush on Twitter.
However, on this blog… hell, I love making people blush.
So I’ll reveal that missing step here.
But not until I’ve heard some of your guesses.
Here are the 3 rules I did reveal, below. Remember: These are essentials for any writer who wants to avoid the catastrophic health nonsense that has ruined many another writer’s life…
Rule #1: Break a sweat everyday.
Writers can slip into becoming Couch Potatoes waaaay too easily. Once you start making money sitting at a desk, your brain will start telling you it’s okay to STAY sitting at your desk all day and all night.
Your brain, at that point, is trying to kill you.
We are animals living in a physical world. Your ability to think, act and work your mojo depends on your health. And your health depends upon your body working well.
Devolving into Jabba The Hut will not further your goals of wealth and happiness.
So do what you must to work up a good, stinky sweat, every single day. Walks count (as long as you’re chugging along at a good pace.) Games like tennis, raquetball, and full-court basketball (preferrably with people younger, faster, and more agile than you) are great.
Even better: Hire a freaking trainer to force you into shape. (Mine is nicknamed “The Nazi Bitch”, for good reasons.)
Just do what you have to do to get your heart racing, your blood pumping, and your sweat glands frothing.
Remember: You aren’t exercising if you’re not sweating.
Sweat is good. Thirty to forty minutes of it every day won’t interupt any part of your style, and will help you enjoy life at every level.
Rule #2: Breathe. Deep.
Most Americans don’t breathe at all. They “sip” air, using only the upper area of their lungs.
Writers are the worst offenders. There really is something called a “Writer’s Trance” — where you will slip into a slouch while deep in writing mode, breathing so shallow that carbon monoxide builds up in your system and you come close to blacking out.
Been there. Done that. Fell out of my chair in a confused daze, toxic with “bad” air that needed to be expelled.
Finding a way to avoid this trance is not easy.
Heck, I own the most expensive ergonomic chairs made… and it took me about 15 minutes to unconsciously figure out how to slouch in them and obliterate any benefit from the support.
Slouching, riveted on the process of writing, nearly immobile except for your fingers flailing away at the keyboard, while barely breathing… dude, you’re asking for bio-chemical trouble.
Your brain will curcle without plenty of oxygen. Thinking becomes sluggish, headaches ramp up, and dream-like states take over. (You may even hallucinate that you’re producing great copy, when in actuality you’re slinging slop.)
So learn to breathe. Yoga ain’t a bad place to learn the techniques. (Especially Hatha yoga.)
I won’t go into the details here, but you can easily master the technique of filling your lungs from bottom to top with just a few sessions from anyone you can corner who knows what they’re doing. A pretty yoga teacher is my recommnedation. I suppose you could Google for breathing techniques, too.
The thing is, breathing deep is essential to living well, and thinking well. Breathing shallow is for tools.
Quick technique: Set up a timer when you write to go off every 30 minutes. Stand up when it dings, stretch a bit, walk around, and do some focused breathing for ten minutes or so.
Then set the alarm again, and get back into writing.
I’m not gonna tell you yet.
You need to think about it, and give me your idea in the comment section, first.
Rule #4: Feed your brain.
This means exactly what you think it means.
When you really need to write well, nix the junk food diet, and eat as well as possible. Lots of fruits and veggies, Omega-3 oils (fish), high-end cuts of meat if you’re gonna eat meat.
No sugar. No snack food. No crap at all.
I’ve experimented with herbs like ginko, ginger, and other cool herbs which are supposed to aid brain function, but I can’t really swear by any clear-cut results. Try ’em, and use ’em if they work for you.
Very important: Do not rely on coffee to stay “alert”.
Rather, take a nap if you’re really tired. It’s a tactic all top writers know about — stuff your brain with info, then go sleep for 20 minutes and let your unconscious synthesize and data-mine everything. When you wake up (don’t sleep for longer than 20 minutes or you’ll get groggy), you will often be amazed at what’s suddenly ready to be written.
I’ve done my headlines this way for most of my career. USPs, too.
I never force myself to stay awake. You’ll spend 3 hours grinding out crap you’ll have to toss anyway… and by grabbing some brain-satisfying shut-eye when you require it, you can be more productive in half-an-hour than you’d ever realize in those 3 bleary-eyed hours trying to coerce results.
… that’s 3 of the 4 big rules for being a physically-sound writer.
Nothing particularly earth-shattering here. You may have known about these 3 rules already.
Rule #3, however, eludes even smart writers.
I have NEVER come across mention of it in any of the books I’ve read about writing.
I’ve never heard another guru talk about it.
… this rule came naturally to me, early in my career. It made sense. And it worked, by making me astonishingly more productive and effective.
When I met Gary Halbert, I discovered he lived by the same rules… including the Big One, #3 (which I will reveal to you Friday).
No hints. (Except that it does tend to make rookie writers blush.)
Try to imagine how your own physical manifestation of writing stuff might benefit from doing something essential and critical to your body’s health.
And submit your answer here, in the comments section.
First one to score wins the prize.
But everyone wins, of course, because the sharing of tactics and info in these quiz threads always delivers new wisdom and insight.
Okay. Let’s hear what you’ve got.
Sorry, in advance, if I’ve made you blush even thinking about this stuff…
You’re not following me on Twitter?
I post frequently throughout each week (usually in the mid-to-late P.M. hours, west-coast time)… and consistently keep things stirred up and off kilter.
You’re missing out, if you’re not at least road-testing Twitter. This is Web 2.0 on steroids.
Check it out.
Now post your idea of Rule #3 in the comments section below.
C’mon, don’t be a coward.
It’ll be fun.
“Ewww, gross!” (Expected reaction from my grand-nieces when they’re old enough to read this)
I’ve got 2 quick things for you here…
… one of which I expect you to respond to.
You can choose which one, according to your whims.
But please do respond.
First of Two Items: Let’s get this short commercial announcement out of the way with two brief paragraphs.
There are still a couple of spots left in the last-ever full-weekend Hot Seat Seminar I’m hosting February 21-22 in San Francisco. Yes, I know this is astonishing, but it’s true. First time I haven’t instantly sold-out a Hot Seat event. One guy had to pull out cuz the economy ate his income stream the day after he grabbed a spot. Gruesome. Sign of the times?
Doesn’t matter. If this offer of intense marketing-intervention by a gang of experts — giving you a practical “action plan” to go get rich (after fixing all your problems) — is something you KNOW you should be jumping on… then go here now, read the details, and for God’s sake, grab one of the last spots (before someone less worthy than you does):
Second of Two Items: I just got “tagged” to write 25 Random Things About Myself.
My old pal Michel Fortin took this notorious Facebook tactic, modified it slightly for bloggers, and has sent the little bugger out into the blogosphere.
I just read an article in the New York Times about this “25 things” phenomenon (and how it’s energized the Facebook community)…
… but guess what?
It’s not new.
The tactic of using random, unrelated subjects to reveal something about someone is as old as “do it yourself biographies”. If you’re trying to get Grampa to write his memoirs, but he doesn’t know how to begin…
… then make up a list of random questions to get him started.
Rather than ask him “What was your childhood like?” (which will have him reaching for a slug of rheumatism medicine)…
… you ask him, instead, about the first time he had chocolate ice cream.
That will open a memory storage locker that includes shocking details about his life, which will require him to explain who Uncle Willie was, why they were all at the Grand Canyon in the 1930s, how tough it was driving a rattle-trap Ford across Arizona in June, how much gas cost in the Depression, how a kid experienced the world as it sped toward war, and on and on.
There really is no such thing as a random question. All things interact in the universe, and that intensifies when you add human memory into the mix.
Boy, does it ever intensify.
This particular concept — writing out 25 random things I believe most folks don’t know about me — could become the first chapter of a decent autobiography.
Of course, I’m a long-winded blabbermouth in love with my keyboard, so I could transform ANY subject into something that would fit into a biography. But there you have it.
Good thing I own this blog, and don’t have to please anyone else to keep my job here.
So, with apologies to the folks who thought they invented this process…
… and with a shrug of slight embarrassment because I know the concept is supposed to be full of short little tidbits and factoids (and I’ve gone off with half a novel here)…
… here is my contribution to this cultural sunami of too much information. About moi.
The rules are simple.
I quote Michel here:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a post with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.
At the end, choose five more people to be tagged. You also have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. To do this, you simply link to their blogs so that they know you responded to their tag. (That’s how I found out I was tagged by Fortin.)
You may include the above rules in your post so that the person being tagged knows them, too. You may also want to tweet your post to notify them on Twitter, too.
Got that? I name five folks at the end whom I have tagged.
However, I’d love to take it a step further:
I want to hear 2 (not 25) things about you in the comments section here. That’s harder — you gotta think “If these 2 things are all someone knows about me… what does that SAY about me?”
Oh, this should stir up some shit, all right.
This could really be fun, guys.
First, though, you gotta slog through MY 25 random things. It’s more than you ever need to know about me.
Let’s begin, shall we?
1. I was born at 4:44pm on a Saturday afternoon in Pomona, California. For some reason, this has seemed significant to me… and no, I haven’t looked into the numerology aspect, but I was interested to learn that Howlin’ Wolf’s “lucky” number was 444. (From the tune “Ain’t Got You”: I got the mojo, and a liquor store, I play the numbers, yeah, 444…) Please alert me if you have insight to this.
2. My father still lives in the same track house he bought in 1948, soon after returning from WWII. I know every square inch of that joint, though it used to be the size of a castle to me, and now the entire layout could fit into my current living and kitchen area. I visit often, and am consumed with memory while there.
3. In fact, every place I’ve lived seems haunted by ghostly images from when I walked the streets. I still have friends in the town where I attended college, and when I visit I can easily slip into a waking reverie rippling with replays of past events… right down to the emotional nuances. I feel like I’m in an ongoing movie 24/7. And this is true of every place I’ve lived (and I been around, let me tell ya).
4. I was stunned to learn, a few years ago, that not everyone has access to a running memory of their life like this. I guess I’ve been writing, in my head, my autobiography since becoming conscious in the crib (yes, I have a vivid memory of being a baby). I don’t see how this skill provides any evolutionary benefit… but I am that guy with near-total emotional/visual/sensory access to memory. Luckily, I’ve lived the kind of life worth reliving once in a while. Otherwise, this would totally suck.
5. I was a late bloomer. My parents wisely waited a year to put me into school — so rather than being the youngest (and most immature) in the class ahead, I was among the oldest in my class… which allowed me to mature at my natural pace, without pressure to start shaving before I actually grew facial hair. Lucky move. I would have been a nervous wreck being the youngest. (Plus, the class ahead of me was full of assholes.)
6. I have a number of attributes that are considered relatively rare: I’m red-green color deficient (not “color blind”, but definitely clueless about what color anything is), something affecting around 3 to 5% of the population. My fingers are double-jointed (I can do some really gross things, like locking my knuckles when giving someone the bird, which always startles them). My first toe is longer than my big toe on each foot. I can pick up stuff with my toes, too (though I think I developed this skill, rather than inherited any prehensile trait). I was born without wisdom teeth. I can curl my tongue. Impressed? You should be.
7. I absolutely stink at singing… but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it in bands from the time I was 15 years old. Mostly I sang back-up and the occasional solo… but for my second mid-life crisis (10 years ago) I formed a 3-piece power rock band, and had to sing around half the material. I did well enough to pack biker bars, and that’s all I cared about. But I still stink at it.
8. Part of the reason it took me so long to get my act together (I was 34 before I got serious about becoming a professional copywriter) is that I have multiple talents above mediocre levels, and pursuing them kept me distracted. I wrote my first novel in the sixth grade. (It was horrible, but a real story with plot, character development, and coherent ending.) By high school, my cartooning was so good I was forcibly given a weekly cartoon strip in the school newspaper (which lasted for two years). I was shy, and actually resented the celebrity that brought. Then the same thing happened in college, and for 2 years I was the staff cartoonist for the school daily. It was hard work. I also played guitar well enough to carry a band, and I’ve been writing pretty damned good pop songs since I was 17. I also played baseball deep into my teens, and thought I wanted to be a jock. (Really bad idea for a guy with my poor eyesight.) I’d be broke today if I had followed any of those professions. I miss cartooning, though.
9. I’m sort of a classic Baby Boomer. Growing up in Southern California, I experienced the best and newest television innovations — from “I Love Lucy” to the McCarthy hearings to American Bandstand to Ed Sullivan — and was in the audience for some Bozo shows. Went to Disneyland the week it opened, and had been there 9 times before it was 4 years old. Bodysurfed at the beaches the Beach Boys sang about, swam in Lake Arrowhead while Hollywood movies were shot there, went to Palm Springs just when Bob Hope discovered it. Lived near the first MacDonald’s and the first In-And-Out Burger. Entered high school during the Summer of Love, went to college during the best part of the Sexual Revolution, and the soundtrack of my youth is now what you’d call Classic Rock (I first made out to Louie, Louie, fell in love to Layla, had my first heartbreak to Fooled Around & Fell In Love). I was a folkie, a square jock, a hippie, a student revolutionary, and I hitchhiked up and down the west coast before horror movies put an end to all that. (I’ll stop — I know I’m boring you.)
10. I grew up less than a block from Route 66, where it ran along what used to be the Spanish Trail, in the oldest settled part of the San Gabriel Valley. In a town called Cucamonga (Shoshone for “running spring”), which was an hour out of Los Angeles, mostly orange groves and grape vineyards and the kind of drive-ins/car-clubs/surfer/rebel-without-a-cause youth culture best depicted in the film American Graffitti.
11. I was almost held back in the 2nd grade, because no one figured out I needed glasses and I never saw anything the teacher wrote on the blackboard. It took another 4 years for it to become obvious (my family all has perfect vision, except me, The Freak), and the evening I left the optomotrist wearing my first pair of glasses, I was literally dumbstruck at my first clear sighting of the full moon rising over the mountains. It is still the most beautiful visual moment of my life.
12. My high school was sexually retarded… and while much of the So Cal area dove into the wild erotic highjinks of the mid-sixties, we mostly bungled our way through fifties-era romantic adventures. Thus, I got very good at kissing and foreplay, while slowly going batshit trying to lose my virginity. However, I now see this was an advantage — easy sex teaches you few skills in creative pleasure. It may sound corny, but foreplay rocks.
13. I grew up without much money… but so did everyone else in my group, so it didn’t impact our ecstacy over living in such abundant times. Even through college, it was unusual for anyone in my generation to own more than a couple dozen records (or a decent stereo). So we learned every note of every song by memory (including the skips, cuz none of us took good care of the vinyl) and obsessed over the scant info available on the album covers. You really could tell a LOT about someone with a quick glance through their record collection — stoner, hip cat, clueless pop geek, mainstream Top 40 fan, folkie, Frank Zappa weirdo, etc.
14. I developed my love of all things rock before I knew I was doing it. My sister is 8 years older than I am, and every afternoon we’d fight over who got to watch TV. I wanted to tune into Engineer Bill’s cartoon show, and sis craved American Bandstand. So we alternated days… and I became an 8-year-old anthropologist gorging on doo-wop and Chuck Berry and Elvis, not quite clear on why it was so enjoyable. (I still have a thang for poodle skirts.)
15. My childhood obsessions went through fairly normal-for-the-times stages: Dinosaurs, the Civil War, science fiction, horror and fantasy-adventure comics (huge Frank Frazetta fan), Mad magazine, surf guitar, the Monkees, cars, girls, bodysurfing and finally, long hair.
16. I entered my senior year of high school as a “good boy” and ended the year getting suspended for refusing to cut my hair, challenging authority at every turn. It was 1970, the height of the anti-war movement.
17. In college, my hair nearly reached my belt. This was a big deal back then, because no one would hire me for anything, cops pulled me over without reason, and the risk of being assaulted by pissed-off social conservatives (which included bikers, frat boys and construction workers) was very, very real. But the chicks dug it, and it meant instant acceptance into the counter-culture. God, we were shallow back then.
18. My favorite color is deep blue… but for some reason, light blue kinda ticks me off. (And I can’t “see” purple, which is Michele’s favorite color, and that pisses her off.)
19. I smoked cigarettes for a decade. Started at 19, trying to cop some of Humphrey Bogart’s mojo, and ended with successive bouts of severe bronchitis that convinced me to stop at 30. I still miss it. But I refuse to get involved with cigars. It’s good to miss vices — it reminds you that you chose living over dying slowly.
20. I am still relatively close to several friends I’ve known since I was 5 years old.
21. I’ve always had close friends, but I’ve also moved around a lot which put some of those friendships on hold. I find it interesting that several people who consider me their best friend live near other people who also consider me their best friend… and they’ve never met. Or, when they do meet, they don’t feel they have anything in common except me. I think, long ago, I developed some kind of ability to be a chameleon, so I could hang out with a vast variety of folks and develop deep friendships.
22. In fact, I’ve often thought of writing an info book on how to be a good friend. There are, it turns out, some good rules for doing this. Most folks are incapable of being a “best” friend with anyone, because of childhood baggage (or narcisism). I know people who I’ll get together with after not seeing or speaking to for a couple of years, and we’ll just pick up where we left off without a hitch. You know you’re with a good friend when the silences are comfortable and enjoyable even when they’re long. (First requirement for a good road dog, by the way.)
23. I have 3 novels in my drawer that just might be kick-ass when I get around to the final edits. I’m in no rush, though. My goal was to write one before I turned 40, and I did. Even had a NY agent shop it for a month, but I pulled it. The joy comes from writing them, not in getting recognition from a publisher or audience. (Yes, I’m weird.)
24. Right now, I own around a dozen electric guitars (including the first one I ever bought), one lap steel, two Martin acoustics (one of them a cool “traveler”), one bass, and four keyboards. Five amps. One PA. A big pile of wah-wah’s and stomp boxes. My favorites: The digital Hammond with virtual Leslie, and the Japanese reissue of the ’62 Telecaster I hot-rodded with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail bridge pickup and black pickguard. (Rosewood fretboard, standard Tele neck p/u, separate switch for the Hot Rail, Slinky’s, Tweed amp. Yum, yum, yum…)
25. I went a year, in college, without wearing shoes. My feet got so tough, I could walk through snow without problem. Didn’t do it on purpose — I just got used to it, preferred it, and did it. Not sure what this says about me.
There. That wasn’t so hard.
That’s all for now, folks.
P.S. Remember to post your comment with 2 random things about you.