I worked in advertising for something like fifteen years.
During that time, I got fired a lot. Generally for insubordination, but sometimes for despair.
Once in a while, however, I’m (reluctantly) forced to acknowledge the debt I owe to all those years selling snake oil.
I learned to think laterally. Not to fall back on the obvious. To cut sentences back to the bone. And create pictures with words.
I learned that not a soul on earth was breathlessly waiting for my deathless prose.
A few months ago I was asked to write a short story to sell in a can at Nick Hornby’s Monster Supply shop in Hoxton, which doubles as a centre for literacy. My can was called ALARM. No one who ever worked in advertising would simply write a story and stick it in a can. The can would have to be part of the story. So I titled my (very short) story The Epping Particle, and used the can, and the sweets contained therein, to create a very scary story indeed.
As my husband said, “No sane child is going to eat those sweets once they’ve read your story.” Which I’m a bit sorry about. (Kids, if you’re reading, the gumdrops will not, in actual fact, result in a slow and painful death.)
The trick with a career in advertising is to learn all you can, and then get out and do something better with all that hard-won wisdom.
Like write a few books.
P.s. You should have a look at the Monster Supplies website where you can buy other canned short stories from people like Andy Stanton, Joe Dunthorne, Charlie Higson, Eoin Colfer and Zadie Smith.