The Blank Page

Much has been written about the blank page. Many people fear a page that is completely empty. I can’t understand that. To me, a blank page is the beginning of a great adventure. You’re ready to go, you’ve made all the plans and now all you have to do is walk out the door. And the best part, you don’t know how or when it’s going to end.

How did I get over my fear of the blank page?  It wasn’t easy. I had to learn to just begin writing words on a page. What words I write almost don’t matter. Just write something. I don’t leave the page blank. I don’t plan on where I’m going. I just write. And eventually something comes out that I think is interesting and I erase everything that came before that thought.

For example, today’s post didn’t begin as a story about the blank page. It began about the excitement I’m feeling about our new company website that will be launching in a few weeks. And how exciting it is to watch something grow from nothing into something. Somewhere in writing that story was the phrase ‘and it all started with the imagination of two people and a blank page, actually many blank pages.’  I stared at that sentence for a long time and realized that for every person who looks at a blank page as the ultimate opportunity, there’s someone who looks at the very same page in fear.

I’m going to Syracuse University in a few weeks, and will be speaking about blank pages. And how to fill them with amazing ideas. So I decided to ask a few people what comes to mind when I say the phrase ‘the blank page.’  Here’s a little of what they said.

“A blank page is exciting. It’s begging for an idea to be sketched, developed.”

“A blank page is the opportunity to truly leave a mark”

“I always think – wow – what can I do with this opportunity. I have complete control. It can now be my vision. A blank page is always positive.”

“The smell of sharpies and finger puppets”


“An interesting progression; nothing, void, stark, stuck, free, limitless.”

“A chance to do it better.”

“Overwhelmed & infinite possibility”


“In my mind, I’m half way there, on paper I haven’t started.”

“Scared to death in the first 30 seconds”

“The beginning of something (hopefully) brilliant”

“Creation, Possibility, New Beginnings.”


“I avoid the blank page. Sometime I’d even just write my name, or doodle, or a not-so-relevant poem, just to avoid the blank page.”

“I hate the blank page. The way it looks at you, sneeringly, questioning your creativity, challenging you to fill it. A blank page is my nemesis – I know I have ideas in me somewhere. Great ones, too, if they would just come forth. What’s the trick this time around? What insight will spark me? Invigorate me? How long do I have to wait? Finally, you pull on the right twig and the dam comes crashing down, a deluge of ideas.”

I find these responses so interesting. Hope. Possibility. Terror. Fear. These are responses from people who always deliver amazing ideas. These are people who haven’t failed on a project in years. In fact, some have probably never failed. And yet the blank page still gives them a pit in the middle of their stomach.

I have a simple proposal. Let’s stop thinking about a blank page as blank. The artist Michelangelo once said about a block of marble “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  Therefore, the words are there. The story is already on the page. Your job is to write enough to set it free.

Dorothy Parker may have said it best, “I hate writing, I love having written.”

Embrace the blank page. For within it, there is beauty, truth and a whole lot of fun.



Three Things You’ll Need To Accept

If you are going to read my blog, there are several things you’ll have to accept. After getting hundred of comments, I’ve decided that no matter how hard I try, I can’t change these three things. So, you’ll just have to know that these things are probably never, ever going to change.

Ready, here they are.

1) Typos.  I try. Really. I do try. I do read what I’ve written and I do try not to have any typos in my blog. But in virtually every post there’s a typo. It drives me crazy. And I know it drives you crazy.  Of the hundreds of responses I get, 80% are about typos. In my last post, someone didn’t even bother telling me if they liked what I wrote. But they did tell me there was a typo in the last sentence.

I’ve tried all the usual tricks to avoid typos. I read what I’ve written line by line. I read the post backwards. I read it out loud.  And nothing helps. In fact, I bet you there’s probably at least one typo in this blog post already.  I’m sorry. All I can say is that I really try. My excuse is that I’ve spent my entire career with a proofreader looking at my work, so I’ve gotten lazy about proofreading. Guilty as charged. My fault. My bad. Get over it.

2) I think the company where I work is @#$%#@ing amazing. I look at other healthcare agency’s work and I think their work is OK. I look at our work and think we’re great. I know we haven’t cornered the market on creativity. I know there are a lot of amazing agencies and amazing work. But day in and day out, the work we do around here is just better. In my opinion.  And that’s the thing about advertising, it’s 100% subjective. What I think is great, you might think it sucks. I know people show me work that they love and I hate.  Doesn’t mean it’s bad work. It just means that for some reason it doesn’t have the special ‘something’ that makes it stand out.

When I look at our body of work, I really like what I see. So you’ll just have to accept that when I write about my company, I’m going to say nice things. A lot of you write to me that you disagree with some of the things I like.  I’m glad. I want the work we do to have an edge that some people will love and some people will hate.  Work that is so boring that nobody has any problems – is just that – boring.  (Any typos yet?)

3) I hold a grudge forever. I know that’s awful. I know how wrong that is. I know that I should be a much bigger person. But I have a hard time letting things go. If I feel like you intentionally did something to hurt my family, my friends, my co-workers, or me you are now dead to me.  Someone says something bad about healthcare advertising in an interview. Dead. Someone questions my integrity. Dead. Someone takes advantage of someone because they can. Dead.  There are several people in my past who make me want to vomit every time I hear their names. I’m sure they know that I probably don’t like them. But they probably don’t know how much I don’t like them.  In fact, there’s one person who recently sent me a Linkedin update – and I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe after everything that we went through, this person wanted to ‘connect with me.’  Are you nuts??? No way. Why, so you can look at my connections and recruit people? So I can help you find a job? I’m sorry. There are a few people I can never forgive. And this person happens to be one of them.  (By the way – I get over 20 Linkedin requests a day. I have a simple rule, if we’ve never met, I don’t accept your request.  So, if I have accepted your request – don’t worry – the person I described probably isn’t you.)

Now there are hundred of other things about me that are never going to change. I’ll always love the Yankees and the Colts. (My father’s favorite teams) I’ll always defend New Jersey. (I grew up there – exit 10) I’m loyal to my creative teams to a fault. (And I expect it in return) I love the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and everything Motown. (The soundtrack of my youth) And my family is talented and amazing. (Of course)  And you don’t have to accept any of that. But typos, my company and my grudges, well, you’ll just have to let me have those.

After all, you don’t have much choice.

PS: Please feel free to point out all the typos in this post. I promise not to hold a grudge.



How to screw up a job interview

I interview a lot of people. On average, I meet at least 2-3 people a week. I meet senior level people. And junior level people. I meet people on the way up. And people on the way down. All of these people are talented. They wouldn’t make it in for an interview if they didn’t have talent. Virtually 100% of the time, I’ve already looked at their work and liked enough of what I saw to have them come in and meet with me.

And yet, I still hire a small percentage of these people.

Why? Because the vast majority of the people I meet mess up the interview. These people make big, huge mistakes that make it hard for me to hire them. So, to make my life easier, I’m going to tell you the questions I will ask during an interview. You will still need to come up with the answers. I will even tell you why I’m asking these questions.

Ready. Here we go.

1) Tell me something about yourself.  Why do I ask this question? I believe an agency should be made up of interesting people. I like people with interesting backgrounds. People who do weird things on weekends. Who have unusual hobbies. Why? Because interesting people bring all of their passions to the office and its reflected in their work. Boring people do boring work. Interesting people do interesting work. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of boring people who do great work. But I play the percentages. I’d rather have an agency of interesting people.  So what does that mean for your answer? Don’t bore me with what I already know. “Hi, my name is Rich, I went to Temple University, I majored in journalism, and I’m hoping to find a job as a copywriter.”  That sentence is on a resume. I knew that already. Tell me something I don’t know. And here’s a trick. I have 107 blog posts on this site. If you read past posts, you’ll know the things I like. Perhaps saying something like “There are three jobs I felt I was born to do:  Be the Pope, be a guitar playing rock star, or be someone who changes the face of healthcare advertising forever.”  That’s a conversation starter. I already like you.  This is selling 101 — know your audience.

2) Why do want to join us?  Why do I ask this? Because you’re interviewing me as much as I’m interviewing you. Do your homework. We’re not the right fit for everyone. Don’t waste my time if you’re not sure you want the job. If you don’t know why you’d want this job, you probably don’t want it. And I probably will be able to tell. Find out as much as you can about us. Read industry publications. Read blogs and websites. Know at least 3 campaigns we’ve created. I love what I do. I’m passionate about what I do. I’m looking for people who are equally passionate. Make sure you know why you’re coming in to see me.

3) What’s your favorite campaign that you’ve created and why? Why do I ask this? To see if you recognize good work. What was the insight that drove the campaign idea. Do you know what the main idea is? Do you go immediately to explaining the execution and not the idea. Can you sell your own work. 90% of the people say “I love everything in my portfolio.” Yet, the moment I challenge something in their book, they say something like “yeah, that wasn’t my favorite campaign.”

4) Do you have any questions? Why do I ask this? I want to know what’s really on your mind. Always have 2-3 questions ready. Write them on a pad if you have to. But ask something. But never ask any of these questions: What’s the starting salary? How many vacation days to I get? What are the office hours? When and if we offer you a job, someone will discuss all these things with you.  When you’re trying to get the job, these don’t matter at all. (And by the way — the answer to those questions are on multiple job sites — so a little research will help you figure those out in advance.)

What are some great questions?  Why did you come here? What is a typical career path? What is your personal creative philosophy? Why type of person succeeds here? Was there a campaign in my portfolio that you loved? Hated? Would immediately remove from my book?  Those are all great. I like those.

At this point in the interview — if things are going well — we’ll have plenty to talk about. If things are not going well — we’ll have nothing else to talk about. If our interview ends long before our time is up – you probably blew it. If our interview goes long – you probably did really well.

That’s it. Now if you’re reading this and you have an interview with me in the next few weeks, you have no excuse. You should nail it. This is like going to take a test and knowing the answers.

Oh, and one last thing. I work for a healthcare agency. Not a general advertising agency. If you’re not interested in doing the best healthcare advertising in the world, please, please don’t come in for the interview. The shortest interview I ever conducted was with someone who told me they were not sure if they ‘wanted to do the healthcare thing.’ The interview lasted less than 5 minutes.

Good luck. I hope you get the job of your dreams.



I’ve never watched a single episode of Breaking Bad (and other things I’ve never watched)

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I haven’t watched Breaking Bad. Whew, I needed to get that off my chest.  I also need to admit that I feel really bad about not making the commitment to watch the show.  I’ve heard its really, really good.  It also means I can’t be a part of the final season, since I’ve never watched any of the seasons.  And I know I’ll eventually watch it on Netflix, but I can’t seem to get started.

But then I started thinking about all the other things I’ve never watched. The classic movies. The great TV shows. So here’s a list of some of the things I really have to watch.

The Movies:

• The Godfather, Part 2 – I can’t believe that I’ve never sat through the entire thing from start to finish.  And since its been on TV 10 million times, I’ve probably watched the entire thing – just not in one sitting.  I really need to see this one.

• Breakfast at Tiffany’s – I just can’t seem to sit through this film from beginning to end. I always tune out as soon as George Peppard starts to talk.  I guess I can’t get past the “A-Team” with him.  Most people tell me this movie is pretty good.

• Fight Club – Don’t know why – I have no interest.  I like Ed Norton. I like Helena Bonham Carter. I like Brad Pitt.  Can’t watch it.

• To Kill a Mockingbird – At least I know why I won’t watch this movie – its because the book is one of my favorites of all time.  I don’t think I can watch this movie without destroying the image that’s in my head.  I have a picture in my mind of Scout and Jem and don’t want the movie to change that image.  I’m probably wrong. Is this movie good?

• Raging Bull – Just like The Godfather, Part 2, I’ve probably watched this entire movie – just not in one sitting.  I think DeNiro is amazing. As is Joe Pesci. I think I really need to watch this one.

• The Big Lebowski and Fargo – Don’t know why. Never got to ‘em. And I know they’re both great. Please tell me I’m an idiot and need to watch these immediately.

• The Graduate – OK – I actually think I saw this film. I just don’t remember anything about it. Except the party “Plastics” scene – and the “Cross in the door” at the end. Everything in between is a blur.

• Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Redford and Newman.  Nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Never saw it. I know I should. But I haven’t.

TV Shows:

• Game of Thrones – I’ve never watched a single episode. I don’t even know what it’s about. And yet everyone tells me I’d love it.

• Arrested Development – I don’t think I could deal with another dysfunctional family

• Dexter – Heard it was good.

• Six Feet Under – I feel bad about this one. I heard it was amazing. I really have to go back to the beginning and watch this one.

• The Walking Dead – Zombies? Really? Is it that good?

• Boardwalk Empire – After the Sopranos I turned off HBO . I love Steve Buscemi. So I think I really have to watch this one.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other shows I should watch and missed. Hundred of movies that I would love. But there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything. So unless you tell me otherwise, I’m going to beginning watching Breaking Bad this weekend. A Netflix marathon.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

PS: If you have any suggestions on something I should be watching, please let me know in the comment box below.




Good morning world.

After a long break, I’m back.

Why the break you may ask?  I think I needed to decide what I wanted to write about.  My original intention was to write about things I observed during my 10 block walk to work every day.  But then it morphed into something else. Funny stories about my family. Stupid stuff that happened at work. Random things that popped into my mind.

And I think I got caught up in the analytics of it all.  When I wrote about funny stuff, the numbers went up.  When I wrote about serious stuff, numbers went down.  I started writing to the numbers and the ratings.  And that was not what I set out to do.

So what did I decide to do?

I think I’ll write about anything that pops into my mind.  And never look at the analytics again.  Some days I’ll write about work and all the crazy things that go on here at the office. Some days it will be family stuff. And some days, I’ll just start writing and we’ll see what shows up on the page.

Enjoy.  Hope to hear from you all soon.  First new post will follow later today.