American Idol

If only there was an American Idol for copywriters – where I could showcase my talent once and then be set for life.

As an aside, many people for whom history is within a five-year frame think many things are new that are actually ancient. American Idol’s parents are Ed McMahon’s Star Search and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, there are many cousins – even The Gong Show, and its grandparent is Major Bowes Amateur Hour, which like AI, puts its stars and runners-up on tour. Amongst them, a very young Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s career was not, however, made by that one big break, but by his determined, relentless hustle.

I asked Ivanka Trump what surprised her father most about all the players of the years of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. She said he was most surprised by how few hustled to capitalize on the opportunity.

Personally, I’ve always hustled, and hustle to magnify even a smidgen of opportunity into a next, bigger, better opportunity, and into a next and next. I know that often the time to do so is brief, so everything that can be done must be done in a hurry.

I also know that the idea of the one big break or, worse, the lucky break is a fantasy, not far removed from Cinderella and her prince’s ardent pursuit of her, lost shoe in hand. Sure, it happens, but so do occasional volcano eruptions and thousands of dead birds falling out of the sky. Long-lost uncles leaving surprised heirs castles in wills. Snookie, sober. Such things can hardly be viewed as manageable strategies.

There is, among freelance writers, the fantastical desire to just write. There is a distaste for having to position, promote, market, sell, build a personal promotional platform, build a business. And there is an entitlement and victim mentality, thinking that talent or skill and study and work at writing effectively ought to be enough to deserve success; that clients should be drawn to them; and that others – perhaps with less skill – undeservedly do better. The facts of success are in opposition to all three of these ideas.

I, too, would love to just write – but I’m not willing to sacrifice my 7-figure income and the independence, activities, indulgences and security it brings me in favor of fantasy.

Candidly, I’d like to just be paid 7-figures and not even write. Just goof off. For which, every so often, I buy a lottery ticket. Fact is, every writer making a good living at it is doing many things other than writing, not the least of which is aggressive and relentless self-marketing.

Further, those really doing well, consistently, have taught and conditioned themselves to get good at and even to like doing the self-promotion and the selling and the client management. Doing it grudgingly and poorly is little better than not at all.

Finally, the fact is that talent or skill or studiousness about a talent or skill is insufficient magnetism for money. As I explain in great detail in my book No B.S. Wealth Attraction in the New Economy, money moves from person to person or place to place for its own complex reasons. Deserving it is subjective and irrelevant. Attracting it requires meeting its requirements. Amongst many requirements is invitation. Money never arrives anywhere uninvited, and invitation is most practically extended and evidenced by self-promotion and self-marketing.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: February 3, 2011

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