That Swipe File won’t make you a better writer. But, this will.

Written by Cole Schafer

I'm anti Swipe file.

Here's why…

Today, the "curator" is more appreciated than the "creator".

This is splendid for "talking" about doing creative work.

Less so for actually "doing" creative work that moves the culture forward, builds brands, challenges the conversation, etc.

Just the other day, an online marketer with a huge following released a giant swipe file of advertisements.

He was proud of it.

So much so, that he called it a "masterpiece".

It was well-designed. It was user-friendly. It was easy on the eyes.

But, it wasn't a masterpiece.

It was a collection of masterpieces.

Being the critic I am, I wrote him and said something along the lines of...

"You’re great at curating other people’s work. I’d be curious to see examples of where you’ve put tactics like these to use for actual brands as a working copywriter?"

He hadn’t.

(Side Note: If I were an internet dictator, I'd make it a law that anyone teaching anything online has to show proof that they've actually done the thing they're teaching...)

While Swipe files are helpful –– and I certainly won't pretend like I haven't used them myself –– the danger in relying on them too heavily is losing one's originality.

If you’re truly trying to do something revolutionary or groundbreaking, you can’t “swipe” from what has been done, you must "create" something that hasn't been done.

I'd also argue the greats whose work is often curated spent very little time curating.

Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo didn’t have Swipe files of other artists' paintings. They were too busy painting their own paintings.

Beethoven and Mozart weren’t giving lectures on the compositions of those who came before them. They were too busy composing their own compositions.

Stephen King doesn’t spend hours writing about other people's writing. He’s too busy writing his own writing.

Late last year, I caught myself doing a lot of writing about writing; a lot of curating.

And, while I’m a working writer that has put out two books of poetry and prose, hundreds of essays and more advertising than I can count for brands of all shapes and sizes…

I realized that if I wanted to be the kind of “creator” that I admire, I’d have to do less curating and more creating.

All that to say, if being a curator is your calling, that's okay –– we need curators –– just don't call yourself a creator.

But, I digress.