Three Things You Need To Do

Writing Down the Bones is a very good book that we’ve referenced often on this blog. I was reading it this morning, and came across this passage:

Basically, if you want to become a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot.

That’s true. Greatness is usually born more out of hard work than raw talent. My clunky (but still true) advertising version goes like this:

Basically, if you want to become a good concepter, you need to do three things. Look at ads a lot (especially the annuals, and especially early in your career), observe well and deeply, and practice your craft a lot.


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.

Doing vs. Reading About Doing

In her book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg has this to say about doing vs. preparing to do:

“People often begin writing from a poverty mentality. They are empty and they run to teachers and classes to learn about writing. We learn writing by doing it. That simple. We don’t learn by going outside ourselves to authorities we think know about it. I had a lovely fat friend once who decided he wanted to start exercising. He went to a bookstore to find a book so he could read about it! You don’t read about exercise to lose weight. You exercise to lose those pounds.”

Pick up your copy of Hey, Whipple. Make sure you go through the annuals. And sincere thanks for reading this blog. But if you want to come up with great ideas, go to work coming up with them.

Thinking is not wasted effort.

Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the how-to-write books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, encourages her students to write constantly. And she says every once in a while a student will ask, “But what do you do with what you write?” She answers, “I don’t know. What do you do with after you drink a glass of water?”
She means that you don’t have to do anything with it. It becomes a part of you. Maybe there’s a line or two you can use. Maybe a whole paragraph. Maybe nothing. But it’s not wasted effort. You write because you’re a writer. You art direct because you’re an art director. You come up with ideas because you’re creative.
So don’t be afraid of generating ideas you won’t use. Experiment with layouts. Write long body copy for a visual solution. And then you’ll be able to decide what, if anything, to do with them.