Luke Sullivan's open letter to a creative on the ropes.
This morning I wrote an email to a kid I heard was in the dumps. Thought someone else out there could possibly use the same chuck-on-the-shoulder.
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Hello ____, it’s me, Luke.
I hear “through channels” that those clients have had you on the ropes for the last month or so; got you a little down.
Been there, dude. I spent THIRTY THREE years in the trenches where you are now and I think I had one client, one stinkeen client who needed no education. One client in alllll that time who just kinda got it.
In order to survive 33 years of clients who either don’t or won’t get it, I encourage you to do what my big brother Kip did.
Kip was (is) a Harvard-trained lawyer who spent all of his professional life earning 1/100th of what he could have earned being a corporate lawyer. Instead, he spent years as a $14,000-a-year kind of lawyer who represented nonprofit clients, causes that couldn’t pay a dime, organizations that were busy fighting the good fight — standing up to big power companies that were turning off the power in the homes of poor people, causes like that.
And one day I asked my brother, “Damn, how do you keep from getting mad or depressed as you fight such people?” And his answer was, “I never let myself get over-the-top mad. I just keep my anger at a very low boil. Always.”
A low boil. NO boil means you’re close to giving up. You need to keep some fight in you. But boiling over? That leads to a short bitter career; probably a short bitter life.
I’ve always remembered my big brother’s answer. In order for any artistic soul to survive in a world full of number-crunchers, politics, and marketing people who just don’t get how cool and how effective advertising can be, we need to remember, LOW BOIL. I wrote recently in these pages, “The first duty of an artist is to survive.” You must make sure that the bright light you bring to the industry is not snuffed out by the first 85 bad meetings you have, and you’re gonna have ‘em.
If something dies, in fact, when the first 85 things die, soldier on. One out of 85 things surviving? Sad to report, but that’s pretty much par for the course in this business, which is essentially one of artists presenting things to scientists.
So, my young friend, let your defeats be funerals of short duration, but your victories? Celebrate any victory, large or small, with wild bacchanalia.
Originally published here. Luke Sullivan is a copywriter. Always has been, always will be. He's the author of Hey, Whipple! Squeeze This. He currently chairs the ad department at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and has recently published a memoir, Thirty Rooms To Hide In.