If you don’t know (I didn’t), according to Wikipedia, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. My new friend Amanda gifted this little statue to me last weekend and I feel so blessed to have her smile and good wishes imprinted on my heart. You just know when someone is going to be lifelong friend, don’t you? That’s how I felt about Amanda. We just clicked!
Anyway, we were browsing the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA when she pointed out how cute this little Ganesha statue was. Yes, it was cute, “but what does he DO?” I asked.
She explained that Ganesha was the Indian god that sweeps away all obstacles and makes way for something new. (She mad e a sweeping gesture, as if she had a trunk.) Amanda told me that like an elephant, Ganesha doesn’t have to walk around things; he just moves through a cuts his own path.
She gave me this sheet of all the symbols associated with it, and I immediately saw the parallels to copywriting:
Big head: Think big. Of course, all copywriters need to see the pig picture. We should understand who the customer is on all levels, not just the small part that causes them to seek out our products. Knowing the big picture, even if it’s never explicitly mentioned in the copy, allows the words to get inside the reader in a deeper way.
Small eyes: Concentration. Copywriters need to have a set time for writing every day, and protect that space at all costs. That’s why so many of us write in the morning, before everyone else gets up, or at night, after everyone else goes to bed. We are strange creatures, we writers, and we guard our daily writing time like warriors.
Large ears: Listen more. I could write a book on this. One quality I have that makes me different from almost everyone I meet, is I am a passionate listener. Listening, observing, perceiving what is there, instead of imagining what you think might be there. That is the difference between a copywriter and other kinds of writers. We listen, lurk, watch, and research.
Small mouth: Less talking. (See above.) I know! That seems counterintuitive, since copywriters deal in words every day. But our main job is to listen and learn. Talking cuts a clearer path if we use fewer words. Copywriters train to be concise like ninjas train to be invisible.
One tusk: One-pointedness. In Ganesha’s case, it means retaining the good and throwing away the bad. Ina copywriter’s case, it means get your red pencil out and edit the heck out of your work. Stick to one point to avoid confusing your reader.
The trunk: Efficiency and adaptability. Ok, some copywriters stick to one thing and one thing only. They write for the travel industry, or the financial industry, or the health industry. But even within a niche, there are millions of things to write about. If I’m a travel writer I could write about the unexplored eastern side of Costa Rica or a small town in Nebraska. It takes adaptability to switch subjects and still get your work done quickly and without effort. I want a trunk.
Large tummy: Digests all the life has to offer, the good bad and ugly. The world a copywriter inhabits is filled with distractions. Sitting down to write something that actually gets through to your customer means being able to absorb all of life’s complexities and shine light on the one thing that’s going to make a difference today in the life of your reader.
The ax in his right hand: Cuts off all bonds of attachment. My mentor, Lisa Sasevich often says of sales conversion, “Be committed, not attached.” So true. The whole point of a copywriter’s work is to help a person take action — either yes or no — not bumble forever in indecision. I’d rather someone say no, think no, and not click, than to save it for later and never come back to it. I’m not attached to the outcome, even though I crave conversions. That just means you go back and rewrite it until it converts. Remember, marketing is all about testing. As Stephen King says of words that don’t work, “Kill the little darlings.”
[An aside] Some people attribute “Kill all your darlings” to William Faulkner, but I’m sorry, I have a hard time imagining the author of one of the longest sentences in English literature (1,288 words in Absalom, Absalom!) scrupulously whacking away extra words. Though Faulkner’s novels are so rich and complete they make me want to die with happiness, Stephen King, to me, is the more likely quote attribution. Now that I got that off my chest…
The rope in his left hand: Pulls you nearer your highest goal. If the goal is to pull the reader along to some course of action, wouldn’t it be lovely to enlist a nice rope! No such luck. The copywriter has to use words that pull.
The prasada: The whole world is at your feet and for your asking. The bowls and baskets of offerings at Ganesha’s feet remind me that there is no judgment in copywriting. You must always open your heart and mind to the wishes and desires of your audience. People will always desire, and want to buy, things that I might not. It’s not my job to sell what I want to sell. It is my job to sell what the customer wants to buy. I get so much pleasure delivering that to my reader, that I really do feel like the whole world is lying at my feet!
The mouse: Desire. (Yes! Yes! Yes!) How I love little rodents! I’m so glad there’s a mouse in this picture! Even though I can’t imagine Ganesha actually riding it, the mouse is, according to lore, his vehicle and pet. The symbol reminds us that you must ride desire, keep it under control, and master it. In real life, mice create chaos where people and animals are around. Ganesha controls chaos by enlisting the little guy as his helpful buddy. The parallel to copywriting is that with words, we lead our readers along a very methodical path to help them acquire what they desire. Too much of a stretch? I don’t care, I just love little mice and rats.
While I’m not an expert on Indian gods by any stretch of the imagination, I really like this one. You may already know, I have a thing for useful tools. Now that I’ve written out exactly why he belongs on my desk, I like my little Ganesh even better.
Do you have an office mascot that inspires you? What is it?