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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


     First off, let me tell you what a pain in the neck it was to name this blog. Every name I considered was already taken. (Is there anyone who doesn’t blog?) This name is probably taken, but when I Googled The Rut, which was my first option, I saw there was a movie of the same title forthcoming. I mean, I love plays on words as much as the next person, but I didn't really know that rutting has to do with the mating patterns between deer species. I thought it was a small trench or a stifling period in one's life inspiring panic and a sense of claustrophobia. That is the rut I was talking about before the deer factored in.

     I finally settled on The Block because, for a writer, that is pretty much the same thing as a rut. One glitch in the previously smooth flow of ideas--and suddenly it seems as if the well is in danger of running dry. Panic sets in. We can all relate. Worst. Feeling. Ever.

     On the other hand, The Block also inspires visions of block parties and bike rides "around the block"--a leftover term from my suburban upbringing (ironic how we tried to emulate the big bad city). Now I live in a rural area. We have no sidewalks, no blocks. Neighborhoods are measured in acreage and bounded by ponds, meadows and clumps of trees turned squatters. Yes, even this far out in the country I feel guilt at impinging on nature's hospitality. Sometimes I think I might as well have stayed in the suburbs, where there was no pretense of protecting habitats. So you can see how The Block might manage to inspire a twinge of nostalgia.

     This brings me to the big decision leading up to this blog. I've recently concluded that the two passions in my life aren't mutually exclusive. Two separate and diverse styles of writing can live as one. Here’s the thing: I was a copywriter before I wrote books. Then the kids came. I put the little nippers in daycare for a spell but by the time the third one came along I found myself reassessing. I quit my job and reported for kid-duty.

     To my dismay, the advertising industry in Detroit went through a dark period, a mere few years after I'd dropped into another life. I watched from the sidelines as The Big Three struggled and their problems trickled down into the ad community. I retched when some of the car companies outsourced their work to shops out-of-state. (I retched even more at the resulting ads, because you need to understand Detroit to make good ads for our cars. Those who don’t live here can’t possibly understand.)

     Through all the turmoil (my husband likewise works in the auto industry) I kept writing--mainly because I couldn't stop. I figured I'd get into publishing. I could work out of the home, typing happily away while my kids grew up around me. I had this illusion of the publishing industry as a noble entity that turned out quality books, putting literacy above all else. I was wrong, but I don’t mean to sound bitter. I've since discovered that it's not noble or ignoble. It's just another industry. I still believe I'll break through someday, but of the two I prefer advertising. Maybe it's because I know a lot of people in the ad biz. Unlike the amorphous literary figures—the agents and editors that float in cyberspace, their lips eternally forming the word “no”, and the smug-looking authors on book jackets and web sites—ad people have faces and families. They do a kick-ass job, and then go home to live productive, meaningful lives. In the D, they're car nuts, absolute afficionados, perfectionists. The very term Creative is tongue-in-cheek. Creativity abounds in every aspect of ad production and everyone knows it. I miss that sense of collaboration, feeling a part of something bigger. At the same time, advertising doesn’t claim to be brain surgery. It’s more of a craft with a smidgen of art thrown in. There's honor in that. So here is ridiculous revel number one: Advertising is real. Duh. I can’t believe it took me nine years to realize it.

     This blog commemorates my epiphany. I’m hoping it will provide a venue for all writers to sound off about the stresses and the triumphs of the job. Here, copywriters can be "real" writers for a change and sales-challenged novelists can be Stephen King for a day (you know you want it). The Block is where we all meet to laugh, to drink, to dance, to talk, to get each other through the blocks inevitable on any journey. Plus where else can a pasty Irish chick foster the illusion of being a luminous Latin beauty? Today I become Jen from The Block (I’m tucking my tongue firmly into my pasty cheek. Can you tell?) I'll refrain from posting a picture right away so that when I do, you can all laugh your butts off at the extent of my delusion. Until then, feel free to sound off about the industry--publishing or advertising. Doesn't matter to me. I love them both in a truly Erica Berger-esque fashion. (If you're wondering, she's Mikael Blomkvist's mistress in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Next week I'll tell you which industry is personified by Mick and which by her artistic, intense hubby who allows the open marriage. Like you care.)

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