There is a truth about all writers, and all creative people, that we must remember, for it is comforting and inspiring.
Every writer, no matter how brilliant they are, probably thinks at some point that they suck.
David Ogilvy Thought He Was Lousy
In a wonderfully insightful letter, featured on the brilliant Letters of Note, ad man legend David Ogilvy laid out his routine for writing the copy that turned products into bestsellers and made him such a huge success.
In it, Ogilvy shows a beautiful modesty, despite his success, and he even describes himself as a “lousy copywriter”.
Recognise Your Failings
What I love most about this letter is that Ogilvy clearly recognised his failings as a copywriter and built his work routine around that.
8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.
12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.
Ogilvy researched an incredible amount, and wrote a hell of a lot of drafts, precisely so that he had something to work from using his real skill, as he saw it, of editing.
Hard Work Wins Out
Don’t concentrate on the fact that you think you suck. Just be aware of your failings, as well as your skills, be modest and work hard. And remember that even the greats usually don’t think that they’re very good.
But they don’t let that stop them, and that is precisely what makes them great.
What do you do to remind yourself that all writers feel this way? Have any examples of other great writers being hard on themselves? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Ogilvy.co.jp.