Creativity is becoming a scarcity and I've decided to do something about it.

Written by Cole Schafer

Eight years ago, I found myself working a desk job. I was miserable. I couldn’t sit still. Showing up to work each day felt like I was sitting bare assed on an ant mound. I desperately wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know how. All I knew is that I wasn’t going to become a writer there. 

So, I quit and went to work for a ruddy-face hustler named Mark Handlin who ran a paint and carpet store on the westside of Evansville, Indiana. Handlin tasked me with ripping the innards out of old homes and apartment buildings.

First day on the job, he handed me an address mashed on a coffee-stained index card, a  boxcutter, a roll of duct tape so enormous it could function as a spare tire and keys to a van that looked like it was once used to cook crack cocaine. I thought he was sending me off to murder someone. 

Before too long, I could skin a 2,000 square foot home in about 2-hours. I’d tackle one room at a time. Cut and portion out the carpet into clean rectangles, and then roll them all up into enchiladas that I’d then hoist over my shoulder and wrestle out to the van. I saw everything: discarded condoms, used syringes, caked dog shit and urine stains so pungent you couldn’t wash the reek away with a gallon of bleach. 

On one 90-degree day, I walked out of a particularly sketchy apartment with a battering ram-sized roll of carpet sitting atop my shoulder only to lock eyes with two men carrying an oversized safe out the apartment adjacent to me. I wore my best poker face, started whistling (I can’t whistle worth shit) and tried to give the impression that I wasn’t witnessing them stealing a safe. They left me alone. 

My year tearing out carpet was difficult work but it was good work. In addition to paying me $15/ hour, Handlin would let me clock out at 2 p.m. and then set me loose to spend the rest of the afternoon figuring out how I was going to make it as a writer. 

During my shifts, I’d listen to podcast interviews of writers while I labored away with my boxcutter and duct tape, hoping they’d divulge the answers I was looking for. Salvation finally came in the form of a brilliant writer by the name of Laura Belgray

One morning, I tuned into an interview where Belgray was talking about this thing called copywriting. I was enamored with her and her work, and immediately set about listening to every interview I could find. That night, I began doggedly reaching out to brands asking them if they needed a copywriter, despite the fact that I didn’t know jack-shit about copywriting. 

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but copywriting would change my life. 

Over the next eight years, the craft became my pride and joy. It allowed me to holster my boxcutter, move out of my parents house, fund countless creative projects (including three books of poetry), travel across Europe and buy a home of my own. 

Last week, I climbed on stage at a copywriting conference and did my best to lasso my butterflies as I gave a short interview on what I had learned during my own journey into copywriting. In that room was none other than Laura Belgray.

I will be 30 years old in 3-short months. For whatever reason, this birthday has spurred in me a great deal of reflection. Over the past year, I’ve experienced something of a quarter life crisis, thinking seriously on how I want to spend the next decade. 

Where I’ve landed, is that while my twenties were dedicated to copywriting, my thirties will be focused on exploring the subject of creativity as a whole. I still love copywriting and I will continue to work with select clients over at Honey Copy each year,. But, the bulk of my creative musings and teachings will now exist on here.

Why this new direction? I believe that between the constant temptation to dance for the algorithm and the invention of artificial intelligence, our world is spiraling into something of a creative crisis. For us to remain an emotionally-aware race, while at the same time pushing humanity forward, we must cultivate and champion creativity both in ourselves and in the generations to come.

This is why I'm spending the next decade of my life exploring creativity as both an artist and teacher. It’s my hope that I will be able to give aspiring creatives the same gift that Laura Belgray gave me once upon a time.

And, that's the realization that our dreams don’t have to remain dreams.