Boxes, little boxes.

Posted on March 20, 2010


I’ve been a lazy sod about this blog and I profusely apologize to my readers (all 3 of them) I’ve been so busy completing my applications for copywriting courses in the UK, that I completely forgot about it. When I did find a little time to type out a new post, I couldn’t for the life of me think of something interesting to say. Now however, I’m quite free, and my fingers are itching to get typing again.

Let me begin with the process of what I was going through in the last three weeks. I detest paperwork. I cannot begin to describe how nervous it makes me. Whether its application forms, bills, or money transactions, paper and I do not make a good combination. What might seem like a simple enough process, like writing down my residential address in block letters, normally takes me at least 5 minutes. The same process would probably take anyone else maybe a minute if not less. Let me tell you why.

I’m always worried about scrutiny. For instance, have I dotted that ‘i’ or crossed a ‘t’ properly? Does that number 1 in that code look more like a lower case ‘l’? Are my letters and numbers straight, or do they slant to the right, when I grip my pen too tightly. And speaking of my pen, is the ink too dark? These are some of the million questions that pass through my mind when it comes to any sort of paperwork. I’m not obsessive compulsive, at least I wouldn’t like to think so. I’m a complete slob and cleanliness is not my forte. I am by no means a perfectionist. But I still don’t know what happens to me when I see those dreaded boxes set aside on forms, one for each character.

I hate those little white boxes. They create limits to our potential! Human beings should not have to deal with these cramped corners of existence, fitting or rather refitting our unique methods of writing within the perimeters of a robotic plain and bureaucratic system! As a copywriter, I find this particularly insulting and to use a done-to-death phrase, I was always advised to think out of the box.

Would the world end as we know it, if we ventured to step out of the box?

You broke the rules, S. Prepare to die.

I think not.

These boxes are like advertising briefs that are meaningless. At my last agency, I was very often placed in a no-win situation from clients. Marketing executives would come up to writers and tell them, “the client wants an award winning headline, but it has to have these specific three words, and cannot exceed 5 words.” When you tell them that it’s impossible, they’d look at you incredulously and say, “you’re the copywriter, craft it!” I can’t tell you the number of times that has happened. Each time it felt like riding a psychotic speeding horse to a burning stable.

Advertising would be such a wonderful profession (well, more than it already is) if people would learn not to limit themselves. Limited thinking should not be welcome in this profession, lateral thinking should.

One of the universities I was applying to had half a page of an application form devoted to space where I was meant to fill up my Statement of Purpose. For those unfamiliar with this concept, a statement of purpose is a simple statement or paragraph that summarizes your intention for joining a particular course or university. This is meant to be a unique address from you to the university, but its quite amusing to find sample statements with a Google search. Especially for people applying in creative fields. Reading some of them, gives you the impression that the author is the Messiah, returned to save us all.For instance, read this one and tell me it did not bore the pants off you. Or rather, after reading it, tell me ONE thing unique about this man.

Writing is supposed to be fun, folks. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a brochure, an ad, a poster, or even an annual report. If you’re not having fun, then you’re never going to be able to come up with something creative. I guess that’s why forms intimidate me. They’re the one area in writing that I can’t have fun. Where official documentation does not have a sense of humour. Where you can’t answer “Occasionally” in the blank space provided after the word ‘Sex’.

The world needs to stop taking itself so seriously.

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