Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing As Only A Billboard Knows How

Life has uncertain ways of meeting you head on. Then again, life is a head-on process of cyclic turns and somersaults. Oftentimes, in life, what you think works is usually bound to take a 180 degree turn just when you’ve finally gotten a foothold on your dreams. What you think would never work, could turn out to be a Pulitzer idea. The best idea could wind up wadded up in the trash.

As I was driving about town today, I found myself attracted to billboards dotting the landscape. Most are food advertisements, which make drivers crave a Coke or a Big Mac. Some are designed to make drivers desire sparkly finger-ware. And then there are the hospital signs, insurance signs, hotels, restaurants, and so forth. All basically attempting to persuade the average American to change the way they go about their lives, or believe that one way is better than another.

Are you led astray by advertisements? Or can you see beyond the image, zeroing in on what matters most?

Let’s take a fast food billboard, for instance. Image is a gigantic hamburger. Not just any burger but a multi-layered hamburger with the works, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and cheese. Large font declares this is the best burger known to man. The image is crisp, lifelike. The purpose is to make the tummy growl and the mind to steer into the next quick lane for a dose of chow. (Sometimes I find myself looking for Australian herders.)

I admit I’m a sucker for a large, sparkling glass of Coke. There’s nothing like the large Coke logo, giant polar bears or a large bottle with condensation glistening off of the glass. On a good billboard, I can almost feel the effervescent bubbles tickle my face as I put the glass up to my mouth, eager to sip the dark, sweetened brew. Coke with ice… a good thing.

So it was today, as I drove around, I began to ponder — yes, my friends, that ‘daring-do-thang’ I frequently do — ponder. Oddly enough, the billboards I passed did not make me hunger for food. Like Pirate’s of the Caribbean’s Barbossa craving apples, unable to gratify himself with anything else, I found myself yearning for mental foodstuffs that satisfy.

Here’s what I saw on the billboard:

Bun = The segmented part of writing most people are willing to strive for… interaction with other writers, people who think alike and, thankfully, understand the voices occupying our heads.

Lettuce = Crisp black words upon the page, which bond a reader to a story and forge a writer’s deepest secrets to the fore.

Onion = Zing that flavors each story and the brainstorming forces of storyboards, plotting parties, and advice given to anyone who seeks to reveal the oasis inside.

Tomato = Acid that burns when rejections fill the mailbox/inbox. Here also lingers the sweet essence of acceptance, the flavorful appeal of success, contributions that assure us the days of bland writing are over.

Cheese = The maturing voice/style which provides a writer with confidence, for all that has come before has hardened the writer’s skin and forged within a fermented flavor/armor of steel that can only herd the writer toward an even greater goal— the beef— success.

Meat = The pinnacle! Here is the center of our cuisine, the purpose of every ingredient… to give the writer protein and balance. This is the goal, the heart of every writer’s aura, selling the product when all the other things have been put into place. Savvy?

Hamburger = Successful writer. The final product enhanced by every nuance above and below it.

Remember the commercial, “Where’s the beef?” Like ‘No wine before its time,’ writers must prepare, share, beware, and not compare. Every writer’s journey is different. Just as every burger can be created to anyone’s taste, there will always be room for another burger in the world.

Bunless burgers are a completely different story. ;)

Can you think of another billboard that reminds you of writing?


  1. Hmm, a billboard that reminds me of writing? I must ponder ... I think I tend to look at the exit signs and how many miles to the next city signs more than I look at the billboards. So for me, the analogy would be that there's always a new city to drive through, a new exit to take, another road to try to get to where I'm going. I am constantly driving to my next destination. Perhaps I need to slow down and read the signs!

    Great post!


  2. Everything reminds me of writing. It's what I do and I am the most self absorbed creature known to man and woman.

  3. Why can't my hamburger look like the one on the billboard? I order one and it looks like someone threw everything at the buns, slapped on some mayo and shoved it at me. And the fries? I want mine neatly stacked like soldiers in the carton, not smashed in like commuters on a subway. Does that resonate with writing? I think so. Some people slap stories together without thought while others neatly plot in well-defined thoughts. I was just struck by that analogy.

  4. Hi Christine! You bring up something very interesting. I love the analogy of road signs and writing! :D

    Jean, you are not self-absorbed. You are one of the most generous people I know. ;)

    Cheryl, I love the way you're looking at the burger too. What an interesting viewpoint! I believe that if we gave everything we did 150%, we'd find ourselves living in a very different world.

  5. Kathy, I'll never look at a Burger King commercial the same way again! Now I'll start looking at all the billboards to see how they could remind me of writing! lol

    Great and entertaining post!