Life catches up with you fast

Words by David Felton

There’s an expression that I’ve seen a lot online recently; ‘life catches up with you fast’.

One minute you’ve got a swagger in your step and the stars have aligned to make your dreams come true.

The next and you’re desperately trying to climb out of a dark hole.

Nowhere does this seem to be truer than advertising.

I know of talented creatives who have picked up awards and then struggled to find employment. Others seem to swing from success to success – based seemingly on a mixture of luck and charisma.

Some people work incredibly hard, do very well for themselves – then their creative partner decides to become a llama farmer in Cambodia, and they’re back to square one.

And hovering over every one of us seems to be a ghostly presence. Not the spectre of death, but something almost as worrying; failure. Failure to excel in a hyper-competitive industry. Failure to spin imagination into gold and pay your mortgage with it. Failure as a creative person, and – assumedly but falsely – as a human being.

I don’t think I’ve met one self-aware creative who didn’t feel that pressure, that constant worry of when will the axe fall and what will happen next?

That’s why it’s essential to have the skills to cope.

Chiefly among those skills – asking for help. Realising that you’re not in it alone. Your life and your career does not exist in a vacuum, and you are not responsible for the shitstorm that is the advertising industry.

Faced with long hours, vast competition, and agencies trying to make money on lower margins than ever, it’s no surprise than this can be an incredibly tough career path. We all need help from time to time, and that’s OK.

My own experience with NABS was coming back from New York after a stint working around Europe and the States and then struggling to find a new job. I met with Creative Coach Ray Brennan who advised me on the best steps moving forward, and did so with a sense of humour and compassion. It was very valuable, and gave me a sense of momentum when I was really down.

It was also through NABS that I met my now current partner – Asa Bradshaw. We have been together well over a year and worked at agencies Fold7, M&C Saatchi and most recently the media agency Jungle Creations.

So my advice for anyone dealing with a rough patch, and who may feel depressed, down and lost is simple – remember that we all go through it.

There are organisations out there like NABS who exist to help.

Don’t be afraid to draw on those resources. It’s what they’re there for.

Advertising is a roller coaster. When you’re on a beach being bought free drinks then everything is perfect. But it never lasts (not for me anyway). We all have ups and down in our careers, but the ones who can ride the roller coaster and keep going are better equipped to survive – and to stay positive and resilient.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We all get derailed by life; illness, injury, mental health problems. The stress can be overwhelming.

To have an organisation who you can turn to for support is invaluable. They helped me find my partner and keep moving ahead, one step at a time.

This industry is incredibly complex and challenging. The highs are euphoric. The perks can be wonderful, and then you can be let go at a moments notice due to no fault of your own.

It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not how it should be.

But it’s advertising.

And you’re not in it alone.

David Felton is a Creative Copywriter based in London, and one of the founders of Merry Critmas – an industry-wide campaign to match aspiring creatives with senior talent for ‘book crits’ in December.


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