By Tom Flynn
What the F*ck Have I Done?
Ever wondered how Icarus must have felt when those wings melted? It’s not something most people ever have a reason to ponder but it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, that realisation that maybe the sensation of being hot shit is just the wax melting.
You see I’ve done this before friends, advertising that is. I’ve been to portfolio school. I’ve put together, and torn apart, and put together again, a book. They even gave me a master’s degree for it.
It was fucking hard. Looking back I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I’d just googled a profession that would let me write (and make money) and applied to a particular school because it happened to be based where my favourite film had been set.
I got lucky, it was a good school, a really fucking good school. I of course, was quite shit to begin with. Later I was simply shit. A little while later I even managed to reach an admirable level mediocrity.
One afternoon though, I got shredded, a mentor said something to me that hurt, badly, and after that something clicked. I got better, a lot better. I was good, maybe even very good on a very good day.
I won best in my degree show, a YCN award, a Creative Conscience Award, and a D&AD Wood Pencil. I was worried for a while I wouldn’t get a placement. I got five offers in that city come the end of term. The night I picked up my pencil I got an email from the recruiter at Droga5 New York saying she’d be happy to discuss an internship (that’s a story for another day) and Brock Kirby even told in an email he thought my book certainly didn’t contain anything offensively bad.
I came back to Dublin and get a placement in a stellar agency. I loved it there, the work was incredible, my partner and I got on like a house on fire, my CD was a great guy and an even greater writer and the senior team mentoring us were the most awarded in the country. To top all that it was beside the ocean and I spent most mornings with my partner “working” while we watched the tide go out. It was perfect. But I left anyway.
I ran away to New York. I figured since I’d been doing alright lately, I’d be able to be alright there too. Fuck me I’ve never been so wrong.
I couldn’t get an email back from any of the places I’d have liked to work at, let alone in the door. I was getting decimated by people I was asking for advice, and book crits were just no bueno. I wasn’t good enough, I think I may even have been objectively bad. No amount of book reworking would get me where I wanted to be.
One CD was good to me, he took time to meet me, buy me a beer, and honestly tell me about my chances in the city. He said if I was serious about working for the kind of place I’d be proud to work for, I should go back to portfolio school and crank out something really special. He was right, I had and still have, a lot more work to do.
That’s cool though, I like work. I’m ready to face that inadequacy anxiety again, to get broken down and torn apart and built anew. I know I’ll be alright, I’ve done it before, this time I’ll just do it better.
And if I fail again so be it, at least I failed spectacularly, at least I didn’t settle for less while I still had a chance to do more. Fuck mediocrity. I reckon Icarus would have been smiling all the way down. At least he got off the ground. I know I’d rather be freefalling covered in hot wax with a smile on my face than on the ground safe and dry looking up with some stupid squinty head on me.