BrokenJPG

A Copywriter’s Blog
Ninja Teachings Ben Levy 17, February

I’m a teacher. (cue laugh track)

I’m done with school now, but I make it a point to go through life as a student, constantly looking for opportunities to learn from those better than myself (ie: just about everyone). Which meant that when the Ad School contacted me asking if I’d like to teach, it was a little weird. If I was still dedicating myself to learning, how could I possibly be ready to educate others?

I asked my CD (who also taught there) what he thought. He told me “It’ll force you to know your shit cold. There’s no way you can teach unless you do.” Which is interesting, because about sixteen years ago, Storm Shadow told me the same thing:

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Now my reasons for showing that are two-fold. First, GI Joe ninja comic. That is just about the maximum amount of awesome I can take. Secondly, while the whole “Ninja Force” concept may have turned Storm Shadow into a tool, he and my creative director had a great point.

I’ve learned a lot by teaching others. There have been plenty of “ah-ha” moments for me, where I realize the reason why some things work and others don’t in the process of explaining them to the class. Instinctive techniques get replaced by conscious understanding.

I’m constantly energized after class, excited by the raw concepting that goes on when there’s no budget, no brief, no pressure to land the client. I always go into work the next day with my mind a little more open, a little less constrained.

Teaching for me is one part performance, and two parts education. This is partly because I’m under this horrible misconception that I’m funny, and standing at the front of the class makes me feel like I’m on stage at the improv. But also, I want my students to understand that this job is fun, damnit. One of my favorite moments teaching so far was when a student raised their hand and asked “Is this what it’s like at an agency? Are people really tossing around ideas in a group like this and laughing all day?”.

It is if they’re doing it right.

So even though I’m teaching, I’m still learning. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. I’m sure I’ll get even better at this teaching thing if I keep doing it. For now, I parrot the lessons I learned at school: Write how you talk. No puns. Strategy first, everything else second. That’s not me talking, that’s the advertising greats I learned from. Well, it is me talking, but the words come from people a hell of a lot smarter than me. Like Storm Shadow.

The crappy jokes, those are all mine. Hopefully they’re just ignoring those.