I’ll tell you stories all day long. I love it. You’ll find me at the center of any party. Not because I love the attention (that is a lie) but because I love to entertain, to engage and to earn my place as the life of the party. It’s why I love advertising. I don’t want to get your attention by screaming. I want to engage you with a story that you can’t turn away from. (But just in case I carry sparklers at all times.)
I’m not a huge fan of an “About Me” that blathers on about how great I am. But I’m a writer (it says so on my tax returns - literally and monetarily). So instead, I'll tell a story.
When I was a kid, my mother made me take a nap every day. Which, I loathed. I would plot against it from breakfast until the minute after “The Price is Right” showdown when I’d hear my mother call out, “Nap time!” Nothing ruined watching some midwestern woman go apeshit over her newly won dining set like hearing those words.
While locked away in my bedroom, missing countless episodes of the “Care Bears” and “Wonder Woman,” I'd write notes and draw pictures, arguing my case against these naps. Naps were the enemy. There was nothing worse in the history of mankind. I was sure of it.
Hours were spent devising just the right message to my mother with the hope that her reign of time-out terror would end.
Luckily, I knew my audience – always vital when crafting a message. First, I tried the soft approach, "I love Mom. Naps bad." I tossed the note into the hallway and slammed the door. Then… I waited.
Minutes later my mother’s voice would cut quietly through the door, "Brian. Go to SLEEP."
Game change. Surely a more honest approach would work. "TV good. Naps BAD." This time I added a drawing of a TV, circled, and on the opposite side of it, a bed – with an “X” through it. The symbolism was subtle. My first foray into art directing. It was genius.
"FOR CHRIST’S SAKE BRIAN GO TO SLEEP!!!"
Symbolism was lost on my mother. Efforts seemed futile but I was resilient (and most likely, overtired). So I stuck to it.
Next up, the direct pitch: "MOM MEAN. NAPS BAD." This was met with more screaming, peppered with irate threats of her “doing something we’ll both regret." This fell on deaf ears, partly because I didn’t know what regret meant and partly because I was determined the situation could be resolved with the perfectly written note. Time and an unlimited supply of crayons and construction paper were on my side.
However my mother was an insurmountable dictator of daytime. The nap schedule stayed in place for years until the moment came when I actually enjoyed them. And then suddenly, the rules changed. Apparently this was now a time reserved for taking out garbage, mowing the lawn, or vacuuming couch cushions. My snoozes were snatched. My youth was gone. Oh the treachery.
Years later, while snooping for a Christmas present, I opened a random drawer in my mother's dresser. There, tucked away with an ashtray I made for her in 1st grade (she never smoked), were stacks of the notes I had written. Years of desperate pleas left unanswered, crammed into one drama-filled drawer.
I asked her about them. Why had she saved them? Mementos of war?
She replied, "Oh, I loved your little notes. It was the best thing about making you take a nap.”
Lesson learned. Thirty (plus) years later, I'm still a writer. I’ve just gotten better at getting a message across.