Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Edge, the Fail, the Fun?

Zestful Blog Post #243

Earlier this year a friend called to see if I’d be interested in writing some marketing copy for a product line she was working with. The money was attractive, the work wouldn’t take a lot of time, and I felt I could produce quality copy, so I said sure. (Not gonna mention product or company, cuz confidentiality.)

“We want to be edgier than we’ve been up to now,” she said. With that in mind I wrote up a few ideas. After she reviewed them, my friend seemed concerned that the material was too edgy.

I said, “Well, you don’t really know where the edge is until you go over it and have a fail.” The concept wasn’t new, but I felt it worth mentioning. “Therefore,” I went on, “you have to be ready to accept and tolerate a failure. Then you know.”

Push through to failure, learn from the fail, let the fail suggest and help shape the next thing—early humans were doing this before they could paint horses on cave walls. But I got to thinking about writing, and being in the writing biz. For us as for almost everybody, it’s easier to avoid risk than court it. If a story succeeds, why not just write that same one—essentially—over and over? Imitate what others are doing. If you see something that looks like an edge, pull back. Why not watch and wait, and let somebody else go over it first?

Because if they find an air current and start to soar, you’ll be standing there wishing you’d had the guts. If they plunge down onto the rocks, you might feel relieved, but sooner or later you know they’re gonna crawl back up to the top. They’ll be wiser, plus they’ll have a tale of survival to tell…and perhaps monetize.

[Where are the edges here? Hm, maybe they depend on one's point of view… [photo by ES]]

The edge isn’t in the same place for everybody. And there are different classes and categories of edges, if you think about it. And hey, a scary edge could turn out to be false when you really get close, and you see there’s just a little gap that you can leap easily, or build a little bridge with yonder log. We all know these things deep down.

What’s the definition of edge, for the likes of us? It’s the place beyond which your end users will not go. The place where you start to lose more readers than you gain. That might be OK, depending on what you want. Edges are there to tempt us and teach us.

Have you ever known anyone to live a fail-free life?

Can you have fun testing an edge?

Is this all metaphor, or is it real?

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  1. Oh man...great food for thought. You don't really know where an edge is until you go over and a scary edge could turn out to be a little gap you could leap over. I think this is what I have been pondering these past few days, wondering how deep emotionally I can really go in a first novel. Do I have what it takes to "get real" and how real is too real? Right now my edges are vertical... what is the deepest I can handle going? Thanks Elizabeth! I have met some really amazing people this year, and you make the list of ones I wish I could hang out with over coffee and just soak up your wit, knowledge, insight and encouragement(in no particular order).

    1. You just made my day, Altebaumer. You're getting what I'm saying, and you're going in your best direction: right now, deep. Yeah. And thanks for mentioning coffee. (Can't say more on that yet...)

  2. I agree. Great food for thought. We don't know how far to push it unless we try. Sometimes it's a crash and burn. Sometimes we fly. But we'd never know unless we tried.


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