How’s it going so far this week? After having zero trouble with the truck for the weekly shopping trip, on Monday it conks out in the parking lot of Target (and this was after the girl we’d asked for help last time saw Mom and me at another store that same day, about one hour before the conk-out. And at that time, we weren’t having a problem).
Anyway, we were able to put the truck in neutral, and get it started. That meant, according to mechanic #1 we’d talked to, that the neutral safety switch may be wonky–which is the doohickey the transmission reads to figure out what gear a car or truck is in at the time.
All right, so we get the thing (and ourselves) home safely, and that’s that.
Next day, it starts up with no problem–both in park and in neutral. Another call to a different mechanic to put some other pieces together. Mechanic #2 says that if the truck won’t start in park, it shouldn’t start in neutral either–us being able to do that was a coincidence.
(Cue second arghhhh…)
We’re going to get things checked out–don’t know if it’s electrical or grounding–when the thing wouldn’t start, we engaged the key with the headlights on, and they didn’t dim or anything (a tip from mechanic #1 to check the grounding/negative wire to the battery).
So anyway, it’s off to mechanic #2 in a day or so.
What’s my point?
The title up top mentions experts–people who know what the heck they’re doing. I’m here to tell you that in some cases that doesn’t matter a bit.
Without the proper frame of reference, I don’t give one eighth of a rip what anybody’s expertise is. That would be like asking me, as an editor, my opinions about auto mechanics–and I haven’t edited any books or mags about cars or engines (and I haven’t yet).
Which also reminds me of something I read from a book called Writer’s First Aid by Kristi Holl. After talking about either/or when it comes to how to approach your writing (free vs. paid, outlining vs. not, fighting an editor every step vs. not fighting at all, and what-have-ya) she says this: “All of the advice is right–both extremes–and all of it can be wrong if applied at the wrong time.”
A manuscript of mine got rejected. Should I revise the current one, or throw the whole thing out and start over? Don’t know yet–that’s why I make a fresh copy and name it with the same title and add something like “new draft” or “to hack up” at the end, so I can try both things and see what works.
That’s why I have idea notebooks and computerized idea files for fiction stuff.
For you copywriters, you can strive to have knowledge, which isn’t a bad thing. Becoming an authority isn’t bad either. But there are times some strategies apply to some types of copy and not others. Or sometimes things need to be tweaked–if you were to write something intriguing on an envelope in a direct mail letter, for instance, maybe you could use that in a bullet for an email or something on the web. But you wouldn’t print out the email, stick it in an envelope, and then write that intriguing copy on the outside of the envelope. (See what I mean? The technique is fine, in its proper context).
To circle back to the truck problem, both mechanics can be right–it just depends on what the problem is, and if the problem they think it is happens to match the truck’s problem right now.
So the next time you’re stuck for a technique, or wondering what advice to take from someone (or yourself), remember that a lot of times advice is 100% on the money–do your best to judge the situation you’re applying it to, is all.
Until next time,