Ideas and self-loathing behind the keyboard by Safaraaz Sindhi
Safaraaz Sindhi explains why he’s part of the solution – and the problem – in today’s marketplace of ideas and language.
“People, they don’t write any more, they blog. Instead of talking, they text – no punctuation, no grammar, LOL this and LMFAO that. You know, it just seems to me it’s just a bunch of stupid people pseudo-communicating with a bunch of other stupid people in a proto-language that resembles more what cavemen used to speak than the king’s English.”
That’s a powerful statement, isn’t it? I can’t take credit, although I wish I could. We have Hank Moody, David Duchovny’s charismatic character in the hit TV show Californication, to thank. His words do reflect my sentiments, though, because, like Moody, I’m a writer, and, like Moody, I’m appalled at the state of the language these days and the capacity of most people to use it, even though I don’t care much for the king.
Moody delivers this line while being interviewed on radio. The host responds: “Yet you’re part of the problem. I mean, you’re out there blogging with the best of them.” Moody replies: “Hence my self-loathing.”
Unlike Moody, I don’t write novels. I write advertising copy. (I know, I know, but it could be worse – I could write package inserts for pharmaceuticals, or even be a journalist.) Whatever you write – even fiction, the purest form – you’re simply adding to the noise, to the glut of sentences in the world, regardless of whether what you put out there is any good.
Writing becomes easier the more you do it, but it’s always difficult work. Even those of us who have a knack for it write drivel most of the time. The difference, though, is perseverance. Know that your first draft, no matter how precious you might feel about it, is always bad. The second is usually slightly better – but not always. By the third draft, you could have something worth using. And somewhere in maybe five pages, if you’re lucky, might be one line of genius, the starting point for a piece of work you’ll be proud of.
Then comes the real challenge. You’ve got your thoughts down, and perhaps even stumbled upon a human truth, a slice of life, but now you have to communicate it in a way it hasn’t been done before, creatively, so that you disrupt people’s expectations and make them stop and think, if only for a second.
Where does that spark come from? Mostly in mundane moments – on the loo, in the shower, in bed. It’s often not original, because almost everything worth saying has already been said, but that’s fine too. There’s so much to borrow from out there – pop culture, films, stand-up, a whole digital world from which to steal inspiration. Showcases such as the Loeries and Cannes allow us to keep up with what the best in the industry are doing, always proving that there are innovative ways to tell stories across various media, and challenging us to keep striving for fresh ideas.
In my field, creatives work in teams, each member feeding off the others for inspiration and bouncing around ideas. When we’re on to something good, when we see the edges of some universal truth, we try to find the humour in it and say something everybody thinks but doesn’t say. Then we find a way it’s never been said before, hone it some more, and try it out on you, the public.
It’s a symptom of our time that most people aren’t willing to put in that level of work. Why spend hours crafting something until it’s perfect when there’s such a sense of urgency to self-publish and enter the conversation in 140 characters or less? All that shooting from the hip is so fast and loose, and these days, immediacy, not flair, usually determines the worth of a writer’s public profile.
And it’s not like I don’t add to the degeneration – I LOL, ROFL and LMFAO with the best of them. Hence my self-loathing. But I also work at my craft, tirelessly sharpening and polishing my words until they’re as good as I can get them, and coming up with new ideas to write into adverts that make all of you ROFL too. What’s your excuse?
Safaraaz Sindhi is a senior copywriter for Ogilvy in Cape Town and recipient of the Loeries Adams & Adams Young Creative Award for 2015.
Deadline for entries is 15 May 2017. Entries received before 14 April get an early bird discount of 10%. For information on how to enter the Loeries visit loeries.com