January 19, 2021 / CPOVs

The Caged Copywriter: A Day In The Mind

Clark Shepard, Senior Copywriter, Connelly Partners

As a copywriter, it’s my job to take in the world around me, and make sense of it through a myriad lenses and perspectives. It’s my job to get people to be aware of their latent urges. To sow envy and tantalize the senses. To inspire action in my fellow humans. The trouble is, for nearly a year we’ve been asked to take very little action at all. Yes, there is a very real pandemic that the entire world is experiencing together right now. But as a copywriter I’ve found myself experiencing another one entirely…

Writer’s block.

Ah, yes. The pandemic of the mind, attacking a single host between the ears. It’s an affliction I’ve typically been able to solve in a number of ways: A burger and a High Life at the Gallows, pinging some pong with my peers, or taking laps around our four story office in search of snacks and light conversation. But of course this year has been anything but typical, and before you ask, I have indeed run out of synonyms for “unprecedented”.

In the last 10 months I’ve had to completely restructure my days to account for this intermittent, solitary-induced writers block. I don’t claim to have the answers, so you likely won’t find any here. But I do know I’m managing it, so I must be doing something right. With that said, below you will find a log of my typical daily schedule. Perhaps you’ll find something useful, or perhaps you’ll just come away feeling you know far more about me than you ever wanted to.

Either way.

6:00am – I awake to the dulcet tones of Apple’s “Early Riser”. The title of the alarm is “Make Shit Happen!!!”. I turn it off, stretch my arms, beat my chest and fall back asleep for another hour and a half.

7:30am – I am entering stage left to perform a play I have never rehearsed, nor know anything about. The crowd is full, all eyes are on me, the expectations feel impossibly lofty. I contemplate the merits of “wingin’ it”, and I’m throttled awake. My dog is performing a tongue-based lobotomy through my ear canal.

7:39am – I brew my first cup of coffee while freestyling alternative lyrics to the Folgers jingle. The worst part of waking up’s getting tongue punched by your pup. I do this every morning. Different lyrics everytime. I’ve never even had Folgers. Why am I like this?

7:48am – I take the dogs out to do their morning business. The eldest, Pinkerton, arches her back, turns her head and locks eyes with me – unblinking as she relieves herself with vigor. I stare back, envious of her ability to be so unflinchingly present and vulnerable.

8:30am – I put on my workout clothes, roll out the Peloton mat, and lay on my stomach while eating cereal.

8:37am – My phone dings. It’s a Slack. From a brand person. Shit, I think. A brand person. A crippling workload is surely afoot…

8:38 – 10:25am – It is. It very much is. I “Make Shit Happen!!!”.

10:26am – I remember I have a video call at 10:30. I check the invite list to see if I need to wash my hair. It’s just internal. Nice.

10:31am – I enter the meeting slightly late. I do this on purpose, so my introductory joke is received by the largest possible audience. I nail the delivery but alas, I am on mute.

10:31-11:02am – I am hollow inside.

11:35am – my wife enters the room and mouths the words “are you in a meeting?” I mouth back “yes”, even though I’m actually watching a compilation of every “Mac vs PC” commercial ever made. I don’t know why I’ve done this, but the thrill of an insignificant white lie is like crack these days.

12:04pm – I knock out some headlines. They’re total shit. All puns, rhymes, and idioms. I throw them out, and write a few more. They’re worse than the first batch.

12:30pm – I inspect each drawer of the snack cupboard before turning my sights on the fridge. Then I double back to the snack cupboard… before double doubling back to the fridge. I repeat this fruitless loop for a good five minutes before a hangry panic sets in. I settle for peanut butter by way of spoon.

12:46pm – While yoked up on Jif, a peanut butter marketed to small children, I attempt more headlines.

1:30pm – I throw the frisbee for my dogs, and contemplate the meaning they place on their own existence. Chase and retrieve. Chase and retrieve. Are our lives any less linear than that of a domesticated dog? Yikes, I think I need more coffee.

2:24pm – More coffee. The best part of brewin cups, it makes your inner voice shut up. 

2:30pm – I exhaustively research the history of the Folgers jingle. First appearing in 1984, the jingle has been sung by such legends as Aretha Franklin, Randy Travis and Rockapella. Will I ever write anything with this much staying power?, I think to myself.

2:33pm – More headlines. I double down on the rhyming. Hey, it worked for Folgers.

3:00pm – Another video call. I come in hot with the jokes. I’m firing on all cylinders now. I mean I can’t miss. I realize in that moment that I’ve entered the “perfection precipice” – that undetermined period of time in any writers day when the entire english language bows down and pledges fealty. Not knowing how long this sensation will last, I put my video on mute, line up my to-dos…and I black out.

5:49pm – I regain consciousness. My hands, resting on the keyboard, feel pre-arthritic. The laptop is humming like a generator. My left buttcheek is an isolated cadaver (note: always take your wallet out of your pocket before sitting down to work). All work appears to be done, and my  right eye twitch confirms I must’ve been centimeters from my screen the past three hours. Perfection precipice: seized.

6:01pm – I stand up too fast and almost pass out. Coming down from a furious writing session can often feel like a horse tranquilizer entering the bloodstream. It’s totally normal, and, when timed right – replaces the need for an end of day cocktail.

6:03pm – I make a cocktail. A Manhattan. Actually, in my house, it’s called a Mainehattan. Because I live in Maine, and I’m a sucker for low hanging fruit wordplay. You should try my Clark n’ Stormy sometime.

6:46pm – my phone dings. Brand has edits for me. I curse them for not recognizing my genius. I thumb through the edits. They make some compelling points, and I made some egregious grammatical errors. I curse myself.

7:15pm – I help my wife make dinner. I’m like her sous chef, in that I am also in the kitchen. This is where the similarities end. While pouring her a glass of wine I tell her how my idea for a certain food client is going to “revolutionize taco Tuesdays”.

7:45pm  We eat our dinner in front of the TV. I control the remote, and with dictatorial zeal I pause during every commercial to say things like, I bet MMB did that, or what in Gods name was the creative brief for this dumpster fire, or Friggin Wieden… or BABE, BABE MY COMMERCIAL IS ON! BABE LOOK I WROTE THAT! MY COMMERCIAL IS ON! BABE! She loves me unconditionally. I’m almost positive.

9:30pm – I read aloud to my wife in bed every night. Usually historical fiction. Preferably something with loads of accents. Hell yeah I do the accents. The book we’re currently reading, The Huntress, follows the trials and tribulations of a crew of Nazi hunters. A Brit, a Bostonian, a Russian vixen – all arguing over each other constantly. Keeping the characters straight every night is surely helping to stave off the dementia that awaits me in my elder years. I’m sure of it.

10:30pm – I kiss my wife goodnight and return downstairs. At last. Me time. Free from all worldly responsibilities. Free to shut off my brain and let the world spin me around for a spell. Free to satisfy whatever primal urge beckons…

10:31pm – …Those headlines could be better, I think to myself. Where’s my laptop? 

11:05pm – I set my “Make Shit Happen!!!” alarm. I contemplate the alternate universe of my reality. The one where I had only the best ideas today. Where all my jokes landed like a canister of laughing gas. The one where I wasn’t saddled with crippling self doubt. Not even for a second. The one where Covid never happened.

11:06pm – I remember I actually kind of liked my day…

…Because I spent time with my dogs (I’ve never spent this much time with my dogs). I sang my stupid coffee jingles in peace. I still got to laugh with my colleagues. I got to read to my wife. All the work got done. I still have my health. I still get to debate the merits of rhyming and puns for a living. Above all, I was reminded today that my creativity will always be at least one percent stronger than my writer’s block.

Also, the Celtics won. Shwing.

11:11pm – G’Night.