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Stranded on Creative Island: Clothed, Yet Afraid
By: Jerry Northup
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Being left behind is no fun. But often, that’s how it feels to the writer. That’s not to say your workplace is uninhabited. Internal natives abound, each having a distinct agenda. Of course, there are a lot of different opinions to wade through, but the words you compose are the basic materials that build the boat. The criticism shouldn’t be directed personally, but if it is (and especially when it normally isn’t), you can use it to improve your copy.
The more you defend a position, the weaker it will get. Every opinion should be strongly respected, even if it’s one you don’t agree with, but that respect should work both ways. In a perfect world, it would be. But often it’s not, so I encourage those who often suffer the slings and arrows to do so with proper forethought, good humor, and solid reasoning.
  • Frustration is just elation in training. The English language is an amazing construct of terms with an astonishing variety of subtleties. It’s not infinite, but the interpretations can be frustratingly difficult to pin down. “It just doesn’t grab me” is just one of the decidedly vague criticisms that rub the wrong way. Even as your drafts multiply, don’t lose sight of the shore.
  • Be careful what you wish for (you still won’t get it). In most organizations, there usually seems to be a small department or group of people that rarely engender any serious scrutiny from senior leadership. They appear above the fray. I’ve heard certain lucky settlers call it in “being on the island.” In this case, the island is a pretty cool place to be. The bad news is that if you’re not on it, you never will be. Channel your energies into the copy you generate and at least you can take refuge in better concepts.
  • Having your torch extinguished comes with the territory. At some point, you won’t get the credit you believe you deserve for the work you do. That’s unfortunate, but I don’t think it has to stay to be pointless. My hope is to help fellow writers gain confidence, but not arrogance in the unique skill that we possess. A second, very closely related goal is that other coworkers and the CEOs that employ them come to realize and appreciate the value of that skill.
Every day, it takes a lot of rowing to move any project upstream. You’ll be warned not to “rock the boat” more than once, but don’t let that distract you. It doesn’t always take a bottle to send a message.


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About the Author
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.

Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.

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