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Creative work vs. fixing a door

In some ways, moving is like a creative project. It’s made up of many small tasks, most of which are predictable. But you also have to plan for surprises. For example, this damned door.

Photo of a hinged closet door

We moved to a new apartment last weekend. After a day or two, we realized our closet door wasn’t closing properly. I looked at the problem and determined it to be an easy job: Get out the ladder and pop the glide back on the track. Five, 10 minutes tops.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy. It turns out we couldn’t tilt the door in the right direction without unscrewing a little bracket that holds the door hinge. This part was held in place with a bolt covered in paint, so I had to chip off the paint with a flat-head screw-driver and loosen it with a ratchet. Once we had the door loose, I was alarmed to discover it had been held in place only by two pins that fit into small holes. After many attempts, the two of us working together couldn’t move this heavy door with enough precision to get the pins in place and the glide back on the track. It took a long time to finally get it right.

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In short, what looked like an easy fix turned into an hour of frustrating work requiring a full set of tools.

We can compare this to working as a professional copywriter. This sort of thing happens with creative projects all the time. A job turns unexpectedly complicated when you realize you have to ship the product internationally, and the German translation of your headline won’t fit in the layout. A product name has to change when you can’t secure the website domain you want. A freelancer you’re counting on flakes out and you have to find someone else. An email or website project suddenly gets very complicated when someone utters the words “responsive design.” And so on.

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However, there’s one big difference between fixing that door and creative work.

The door is binary. It was broken, and now it’s fixed. After all our work, it opens and closes smoothly every time. In all likelihood, we’ll never need to work on it ever again.

A creative project is filled with vagaries and shades of grey. It starts as an idea and ends up executed, but it take many turns in the process. There’s never a moment when the door pins fit into place, the glide settles into the track, and everything works perfectly. There’s always something a little off. And even if everything looks great, I always think, “Maybe we could have done it better.”

That feeling of satisfaction after fixing a broken door—I never get that feeling when I’m writing. Do you?

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Copywriting, Marketing

3 comments

  1. Gail Moore says:

    Nice blog. I want to know more about this in future.

  2. Chris Becker says:

    In the engineering world, someone once coined the term “Yak Shaving” to describe this general phenomenon…

    “Any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on.”

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/03/dont_shave_that.html

  3. I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for putting up. Thomas Sabo Schmuck http://hebyngt.gov.cn/index.asp

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