Creating. Just to create.

Natalie Goldberg is a writer. And she says as a writer, you have to write every day. In her book Wild Mind, she says people who attend her writing seminars often ask, “What do you do with what you write?” Her answer is, “What do you do after you drink a glass of water?” She’s saying writing isn’t something always do to get somewhere. You do it because you’re a writer and writing’s what you do.

Van Gogh didn’t sit down and decide to paint masterpieces. Most of his work that’s hanging in museums he saw as practice. Here’s what he did when he was experimenting with what he saw outside his sanitarium window:




Sometimes we create amazing things. Sometime we create garbage. The point is to keep creating.

I don’t always practice writing copy. But when I do…

His blood smells like cologne.
He can speak French in Russian.
He’s a lover not a fighter. But he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.
He is the only man ever known to ace a Rorschach test.

If you were on this account, what kind of lines would you write?

It’s a good exercise. In fact, I keep a document on my desktop where I write my own lines for him. Just for fun.

Am I going to send them to Euro RSCG? Nope. They wouldn’t bother looking at them.

So why do I write them?

Because I’m a writer. And any writing I do makes me better. I don’t have to use what I write for the act of writing to be useful.

So here’s an open challenge: What would be your Most Interesting Man in the World lines?

Product Benefit Exercise

In the event you’re not working off a brief (i.e., you’re a student, you’re doing pro bono work, or you’re trying to beef up your book on your own), here’s an exercise worth trying.

Take whatever it is you’re working on, and brainstorm 20 product benefits. Say you’re working on Legos. Here are 20…

  1. Fun
  2. Make you smart
  3. imaginative
  4. indestructable
  5. timeless
  6. appeal to all ages
  7. no language barrier
  8. teach kids about connections
  9. you can lose track of time
  10. they keep your kids quiet
  11. interactive
  12. so much better than watching TV or playing video games
  13. MIT has a Lego Lab
  14. colorful
  15. They’re a step-up from Duplo
  16. Variety of sets (space/medieval/town/Star Wars)
  17. Not hard to find
  18. Play that doesn’t make you dirty
  19. Always enough to share
  20. You can build with as much or as little as you like.

Once you have your list of 20 product benefits, start doing ads for each area. For this, do some ads about how Legos appeal to all ages. See how far you can go with that. Then do some ads about how you can add to the sets. Or how, unlike other toys, they’re still fun when you lose a couple pieces. Obviously, some benefits will be better than others. I’m not sure how many people ever bought Legos because they’re “colorful.” Still, do three ads per benefit, and suddenly you’ve got 60 ideas. Keep doing ads off every benefit until you realize which area is the most fertile. Then go do more ads in that direction.

You may not always have a brief. But you should always be working off a strategy. This is just one simple way of finding out what that might be.

By the way, don’t do ads for Legos. Too studenty.
(Much love to Coz Cotzias who showed me how to do this a decade ago.)