Portfolio school is a revolving door of people and personalities. Every class becomes its own family, full of laughter and smiles and enough drama to put my Iraqi aunts to shame. I met some folks from the first quarter in one of the classrooms, bombarded with questions. It was kind of surreal, and I remember doing the exact same thing when I started at MAS. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim (it’s been a long week and not over yet), but here are some things I’ve come to learn while studying at Miami Ad School in San Francisco. They’re fairly copywriter specific.
1. Learn the design programs. Your art director will appreciate it when you handle execution of a bullshit project, and come through when their expertise is most needed for the serious ones. ADs can sometimes let loose with art direction, and you need to be able to communicate why the second word in your headline is too slanted and illegible.
2. Write a ton of lines. Don’t write lines you think your teacher will like. Write lines you like, that are meaningful to you. And save everything. Microsoft Word doesn’t care about that extra bullet point item. I can’t tell you how many times my teacher saw treasure where I only saw trash.
3. WRITE IT DOWN. Carry a small book and mini Pilot pen with you everywhere. My neighbor Zeev told me a rule: 3 breaths, and it will pass. If a thought pops into your head, and you take three breaths without putting it to paper, it disappears.
4. Pay attention to what people say. Last quarter, I focused on design. Now I listen and observe, observe, observe.
5. Don’t suck up to teachers. Some of them are as old as you are. You can be normal. Talk about stuff unrelated to advertising, share links, show them shit you’re working on outside of class. They have interests too.
6. If you show a line or idea to someone and they say it doesn’t make sense, trust them: IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE. Fix it, burn it, get over it.
7. Make friends with art directors, and give them changes in bundles instead of bits.
8. Speaking up helps. If a teacher asks for ideas, bring them to the table. But strive to shut up a lot more often than open your mouth. The popular kids at school are usually the nicest and friendliest, not the ones who need to prove themselves, their artistic talent, or comedic abilities during class. It’s annoying, we’re all artists here, and your parents are the only ones who think you’re funny.
9. Stay in your own world, while looking at what other teams are doing. It’s easy to be impressed, then jealous of how extensive and amazing your friends’ projects are. Be happy for them, and make your shit better. You’ll spend more time gawking at what they’re putting together than getting anything done.
10. Don’t talk shit about people. Everyone develops a reputation at ad school. The smiling nice guy. The IT person. The networker. The kick ass illustrator. It works both ways. The creep. The annoying one. The flake. The drama queen. The shit talkers and the gossipers. It’s unfortunate, but once you develop that brand, that shit sticks and that’s how people remember you. How do you want to be remembered?
11. Unless you’ve gone through a writing or design program, you will suck in the beginning. Ad school is this introspective process, where you come in full of passion and life and unbridled enthusiasm. It’s so cute…But your work is a lot of crap. Most of it comes from regurgitated commercials and snazzy headlines you hate. The GOOD news is that you get better. You filter out more and more of the crap, realize that YOU DO have innate TALENT, and more importantly, start treating yourself, your reader and your teacher with respect. People avoid advertising. You are a person. Go from there. It gets easier, and you get better.
12. Read. Read fiction, books, nonfiction, magazines, blogs you like. Read an assload. It makes you a better writer and is better than reading: Settlers nearly made all the buffalo extinct. Here’s how. (Product shot of a gun) Hey. That’s actually not such a bad line. I bet it will be in when I look at it 6 hours from now.
Writers I like to follow, and suggest the RSS: (There are others out there…But it’s fucking late and if I don’t stop this, this will become the longest post on this blog)
http://danbalser.blogspot.com/ (headline a day page)
Journal of a Junior Copywriter