As I ate, he watched me.
“What do you think of the dill? Too much??”
“No,” I replied, “It adds a little…”
“Zip!?” He beamed when I nodded. “I was hoping you would say that. With the fresh tomatoes it makes a nice, balanced bite, right?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this small, but meaningful interaction I had yesterday. A chef made me lunch, a salad. There were less than 7 ingredients. It wouldn’t have won any awards or been featured in a magazine. He made it for me because I’m a friend and I was hungry, not to impress me or so I’d write about it. He knew I’d be happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But still, everything he did was with purpose and intent, for no other reason than his self-imposed standards and an unwavering pride in his work.
Seeing someone in the middle of what they do best is a cool moment. I’ve been lucky to be able to work with some of the best copywriters in the business and thanks to Google Docs, I sometimes get to watch them write in real time. It’s a beautiful process.
I write every day but I don’t publish a lot. I have friends with wildly successful blogs. Some more talented than I… some not. I’ve often asked myself why I don’t just hit “Publish.” As far as I know, 2 people read this blog.
Sometime after lunch yesterday, it hit me; I am the chef.
Even though I’m writing for my friends, people that love me and I don’t have to impress, I have set a ridiculously high standard for myself. Part of me hates that. But, most of me is proud that people, although they might be laughing at me, might look at me like I do the chef.
Did he go overkill on lunch? Maybe. But, that’s what separates him from hundreds of culinary school graduates “grinding it out” in the kitchen.
My own career has been a lot like that. You can see it in this blog. There may not be a lot of posts here, but know that when there are, you’ll get a carefully composed, gourmet lunch. I can’t bring myself to make peanut butter and jelly.
This interaction even at the time made me laugh because it was so illustrative of how I work:
My favorite part is the client. “Ryan has left the conversation.”
The great thing about all this though, is that I’ve been able to build my life and career around writing. It’s ok, and even appreciated, to have these crazy self-imposed standards. Shower epiphanies about apostrophes might not be the best topic of conversation (lesson learned), but that correction saved my client from an email from an overzealous ex-English teacher reader. I know that small victories like this, even though in the long run don’t make a ton of difference, are how I can set myself apart from the thousands of people out there slapping the title “copywriter” on their web site.