I'm constantly reading everything around me. Signs, labels, letters... I even picked up a brochure at the license branch the other day, which is why I can tell you everything you need to know about T.I.M. - Truth In Mileage and how to detect and prevent odometer fraud.
So it goes without saying that I love bookstores. Barnes, Borders, Powells, Abebooks, Books-A-Million, I'm not particular. And the last time I was in one, which was Saturday, I happened to notice 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, a chubby little volume that sounds like it was written on a dare.
"Ah, ram it, Sunshine. You're so smart why don't you give me *one* good thing to be happy about."
"Oh, I can do better than that..."
So then the author, whose name I'll look up in a second, probably started listing things, probably kept a little notebook beside the bed, and in the car, and in the bathroom, and whenever something struck her (or him) it was added to the pile until eventually, after a couple years or a couple weeks, who knows, there was a whole book's worth.
"Ha!" this soon-to-be-identified author must have then exclaimed, marching into the friend's room holding the manuscript aloft. "You want one thing to be happy about? How about fourteen thousand of them?"
To which the friend replied, "Meh" and went back to watching The Price is Right.
But I'm glad the book was written. Not because I bought it -- I didn't, and for some reason, it reassures me more to know it's still there on the shelf, 14,000 kernels of joy justification safely stored away.
I was pleased in particular to discover this book because when I flipped it open I was immediately struck by one specific line entry:
"writing an advertisement"
At first I thought it was a typo. Copywriting? A cornerstone of contentment? What about rejections? What about frustrations? What about the mythical bottle of whiskey in the bottom desk drawer of every ad writer in every old movie or tv show?
But there it sat, plain as day on the page, right there next to delightful red radishes and mesmerizing campfires. Writing an advertisement. Something to be happy about. Hmm.
Sliced pound cake with butterscotch sauce, I can see. Oriental sandals, kissing potions, urban legends, the Duchenne smile, yes, yes, yes. Ventriloquists' dummies maybe not, and it's hard to understand getting the warm fuzzies over paper plates, but for the most part this was a solid, well reasoned list. "The silent industry of chlorophyll"? That's great -- it truly does make me happy.
And writing an advertisement *is* kind of fun, once you give it some thought. The challenge of expression, the joy of an elegantly turned phrase, the fleeting exhilaration of finding a superfluous comma and whisking the cursor over to delete it.
The discovery with the artist, the watching as it takes shape, the moments of surprising and amusing one another with ideas you've never seen done before...
The quiet sense that "I nailed it," and the triumphant keystrokes that send the finished work to the printer...
Watching the light go on in someone else's eyes as you explain the idea, if it's a good idea and you're explaining it well, and their little involuntary smiles you sometimes catch as it either dawns on them that you're on to something or that they just realized what could make it even stronger...
Copywriting does have its little thrills. The phrase "approved, no changes" still gives me a perceptible quiver of excitement, even just typing it here.
The task of distilling a body of information into only the most relevant facts, then finding a way to summarize them all in a manner both succinct and surprising... I suppose that is something to be happy about.
It may not be a wicker rocking chair or pine-scented sea breeze, but I'll take it.