Chameleons are lizards famous for being able to change their color depending on temperature, light, and mood. This color change is also a method of communication and camouflage, and it also helps them get the lady chameleons‘ attention.
Chamillionaire is a rap artist. He’s from Houston and is known for his 2006 hit “Ridin’.” He is a member of The Color Changin’ Click, and I have no idea what that means.
They don’t have very much in common other than the fact that I cannot spell their monikers correctly.
Today I realized how similar I am to the lizard of the famed hue-hocking ability. As a writer, especially a professional copywriter or technical writer, you have to be capable of delivering text that has an omnipotent and convincing voice. Not unlike a high-school freshman, you need to blend in without trying too hard, to be an authority but in an interesting way, fake it ’till you make it, as it were.
As a writer, you have to caress the readers with your words, while stroking your client off at the same time. Not a pretty analogy, but horrendously appropriate.
I’ve struggled with this issue regarding the snowboarding apparel company we’ve been working with. While I kind of love the idea of the job, my voice just doesn’t fit. My partner in crime has compared me to an old man in a suit trying to speak “the lingo” to a bunch of youths that are mugging him on the subway. It ain’t tubular, dudes. I’m trying not to have a cow but this job is so gnarly. Totally not radical.
So I leave him to scribe the bro-friendly text, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t make him want to rip his eyeballs out of his sockets, but he’s able to turn over copy that at least sounds effortless. I, meanwhile, try not to wallow in my own ineptitude, vacillating between scoffing at anyone who would use the word “shred” when not in reference to confidential documents, and wanting so desperately to be cool enough to write in a way that impresses snowboarding boys. It is exactly like high-school.
I’d write anything if I’m paid to write it. Seriously. I don’t discriminate. I’m a tattooed, graphic novel reading, insomniac nutcase who has slept with too many women to count and who swears like a sailor. You want me to write the brochure for your Christian college’s Young Republican’s meeting? Yes. Yes, I will. And you will have no idea that I would probably make a church collapse if I stepped inside of it, unless it was for an AA meeting.
Half of this game is learning. We’ve been lucky to build up a client base that’s ridiculously diverse. We’ve written for rock collectors to rock bands, software companies to seamstresses who sew soft wares. Our work isn’t steady, we still live from hand-to-mouth, but you’d have no idea that we weren’t geologists, tailors, programmers, or Glenn Danzig.
I remember back when I had a steady job and an account that I actually put money in to save up for things like a new iPod. I sat at a desk from 8:30 until 5, I used the same pen and notepad every day, and each caller was greeted with my weary voice, parroting the same sentence every time. Work was work. There were some days I didn’t learn a damn thing. I had incalculable hours of free time that I spent waiting for the next phonecall or the next call to worship the trinity of copying-collating-stapling. This office routine was what led me to contact some scrappy kid with a skateboard who I remembered from college. The soul-sucking monotony of being an office drone was what lured me out to Portland. That and I’m treacherous with a fax machine.
If I had decided, one lonesome day at my desk, turning green under the fluorescent lights, to rise up and be a ballerina in that office instead of an administrative assistant…well, let’s just say my boss would have been confused. That financial security came with shackles.
Nowadays I never know if tomorrow I’m going to be hired to fashion myself a racecar driver or a yogi. The fact that we’re hired to write, learn, and imagine is what keeps me from raising the white flag and running back to New York for a comfortable, cubicle-confined life. I might not know where the next paycheck is coming from, but I do know I’ll get more than a dollar amount out of it.
Being capable of absorbing, translating, and providing information in an engaging and original way is what we’re paid to do. And it might crack me up that I’m writing about automotive parts when I’m a bike owner, or that my words have been used to describe meditation retreats when I am by far the most neurotic human being this side of New Jersey.
Like Chamillionaire says, “I can be your provider, never was smarter, never was tighter. Get your mind correct, I’m the verse and hook ghost writer.” You may never know that the girl who wrote the copy for the store where you bought your wedding favors is living in sin and reminiscing of her glory days where she hooked up with girls in the back seat of an Acura. But the reason why you don’t know is because my job forces me to at least try to be anything you want me to be.
Except, apparently, a stoned teenage boy.
So not every color can turn out perfect. But at least I can learn. That’s why we benefit from one another within this quirky company. And I’m really looking forward to the day when we’re assigned to write the instructions for a reusable maxi-pad. I’ll let him struggle, then I’ll step in and intervene.
Another thing that I share in common with chameleons: they are high-maintenance little fuckers. If you own one as a pet it’s recommended that you “gut-load” the insects you feed them, which means, aside from letting the chameleon just eat the bugs, those very same bugs must first be fed everything from carrots to dog food to make sure that the lizard gets enough nutrients. You have to feed their food in order to feed them. This somehow or another reminds me of my very particular burrito requests. But in truth I don’t wear many colors other than black.
ainsleydrew at gmail