My Very Cool Life: An Analysis
Page 1 Min

I haven’t necessarily always wanted to be a writer.

Ages 4 to 9, I was NBA bound. I spent all my free time in our driveway, working on layups and trying to do that ball-spinning-on-finger thing. I had those little kid shirts that just have a cartoon basketball player and big text that say something like “I’ll break your grandma’s ankles, man!” When I’d walk around, I’d bend my legs up behind me and touch the bottom of my sneakers, the way professional players did between free throws.

I was a tall kid – not athletic – but tall. It gave me an advantage over classmates that hadn’t grown as much, and I figured things would always be this way. Shaquille O’Neal wanted to hang out with me, probably, and play my N64. I was chosen.

Eventually though, other kids grew, the playing field was evened and my interest in basketball waned. I then went through a series of other ambitions: professional skateboarder, doctor, actor, video game developer, and so on. I checked the boxes every kid is supposed to.

“Writer” didn’t make the list until high school, when I found I enjoyed writing and performing entertainment speeches at my Class-C Nebraska high school. It was my own thing, and I was ok at it. Then, in 2011, I joined my college newspaper – The Daily Nebraskan – because I wanted to impress a girl. She wasn’t impressed, surprise, but I took to it immediately, surprised by how much fun I was having. It turned into years of column writing, editing and self-growth.

Now I’m here at redthread, calling myself a “copywriter” and learning what that actually means. It’s been a wonderful, challenging experience that’s led to a lot of personal analysis and critique of my current and previous work to find ways to improve.

Which is what this blog is about. Sorry, I know, a former newspaper dude should know better than to bury the lede, but here we are. Today, we’re going to look over a piece I wrote almost 20 years ago, in third grade. To succeed in the wild world of advertising, you need to learn from your work and not make the same mistakes twice, which is why this is so important. Let’s dive in.

Page 1

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My Very Cool Life, by yours truly. Let’s start by looking at the title – it’s great. My life was cool back then, in a way it hasn’t been since. I was like 5’5” already, thick blonde hair, and had two pairs of Doc Martens. I had no reason to not use this title.

The other big thing to examine is the cover art - designed by yours truly, with clip art and a creative eye. Looking back, the spaceship is a bit much – I’ve never actually been in space. And the mutated Waldo is just eye candy, never showing up in the story.

Page 2

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There we are, my pixelated classmates and me. I’m third from the right in the back row, next to a girl who had to go to doctor that same year because she had a fly go up her nose and not come back out. She moved away a month later, probably because of the fly.

Let’s take a look at this border! The transition from baseballs, to heatmaps, to … chain links, maybe, and the bubble finish raises a fair question – should I be redthread’s lead graphic designer?

Page 3

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There’s a big elephant to address – this font is bad. It looks a typewriter sneezed. If I could go back, this would be an immediate fix. I’m really sorry.

That said, do you see that first sentence? Awesome. Hemmingway could’ve used that sentence and gone anywhere with it. Good job, me. This is my class.

Sentence two: The reader doesn’t know who Kendra or TJ is. You can look at the back row, and figure out which kid I am using deductive logic, but that kind of responsibility is on the author, not you.

This best friend list is questionable. Spencer and Tye were actually good friends, and I’ll always stop to say hi if I see them in public. Brant moved only months after this was written, and Brad … Brad had so, so many turtles at home.

Also, what happened in second grade to make it worth mentioning I have a good class now? My only memories from that year are learning cursive and telling my teacher I was rapidly dying of organ issues on April Fools day. What have I blocked out?

Page 4

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My third grade teacher, Miss Molle. It may seem weird to dedicate an entire page to her image, but I’ll always defend that creative choice. She’s a wonderful person, and a legend in our school for how nice she was. She used to give each kid a hug as they’d leave, and even older students would come by after school to get a hug. Miss Molle just kicked a lot of ass.

Page 5

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Clearly, my opinion of Miss Molle has not changed. To say she was the best teacher I’d had in the entire world is technically true, but it’s sort of like saying bananas are the best fruit in the entire world when you’ve only had an apple and two grapes. That last sentence is important, because it gives the best glimpse into my psyche out of anything in My Very Cool Life. At my small elementary school, our class of about 40 was split between two teachers at each grade level. I could get Miss Molle, or Mrs. Novotny, and I knew which was the better option, so I went to my mom and said something to the effect of “Don’t let them decide. We decide.” and she made it happen. This would set off years of me trying to overly shape my future, and this sentence haunts me.

Page 6

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Money shot, baby! Is it ok to say a third grader has bedroom eyes if that third grader is me? Because this was my look, lids half-closed, barely interested in anything beyond the fact that the frozen Go-Gurt mom put in my backpack will be thawed perfectly for reading time at 11, where we’re finishing The Man Who Loved Clowns today! The makeshift, air-spray shrubbery surrounding me is an interesting choice – it would suggest, perhaps, that I was closed off or elusive at this point in my life. The reality is that I was an oversharer, still am – loud about it, too. I regret that creative choice, and will not make the same mistake again.

My biggest takeaway here, though, is that my choice to start balding at 19 was ill-conceived – my hair looked fine – but hindsight is 20/20. I digress.

Page 7

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Uh hello, word police? Yes, I would like to report word crime.

Who copyedited this? ‘Baseball’ and ‘basketball’ are both one word, ‘kung fu’ is two. There should be a comma before my name. Pokémon, with the little thing over the ‘e.’ Come on, Tyler! Get your head in the game!

Otherwise, sounds like a solid summer I was having. I still love baseball (go Red Sox!) but lord knows I retained nothing from Kung Fu. I fully believe that if I hit someone, it would only make them healthier. I still love my family, too, they are top-shelf people. I’m glad to have proof I was a cool kid.

Page 8

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D’aww! Me, a baby, with an “uh oh, the party just showed up” look. Slick coordinated outfit that allows for style and mobility. Dad beaming behind me, raising me à la Lion King. Standing on a newspaper, already ready to step past journalism into advertising and surrounded by baseballs. Perfection. Mwah.

Page 9

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Here it is, the climax of my story. Let’s get the quick fixes out of the way, my little brother is four years younger than me, so I wasn’t a baby, I was a little kid. And I’ll say this – my brother is just ok. Just an average, good dude. I like him a lot, but he was never worth running away from home. Sorry Clayton, but hey, you’re not reading this.

I’d like to point out, too, that this is not a sweet story – this is a story of manipulation. I didn’t see an angel, I saw a new baby in the house and acted out. I applaud my honesty at the time to openly talk about 4-year-old me trying to make my mom upset. A lot of authors wouldn’t take the chance of isolating mother-loving readers. This brutal truth will only serve me well in the dog-eat-man bloody sport of advertising, manipulation doubly so.

Page 10

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This was all that was on page 10. Weirdly enough, it looks a lot like me now at age 27. Don’t want to dig too deep into it, in case I anger any deities or time travelers, but there might be something beyond human happening on this page.

Page 11

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We’ve made it to the end, and unfortunately, it isn’t strong. “This is a monkey.” Tyler, the picture on the last page is clearly an ape (the lack of a tail was a dead giveaway! Ugh!) I do like that Donkey Kong 64 made it into the story – anyone who has ever heard that glorious HUH! will tell you DK64 is a classic. I still really like it. Regrettably, I end the entire story with “Monkey Kong,” with some less-than-clever pre-emoji emoji use. Why didn’t I put a donkey there instead? This, this, is how I close the story? The lament will sit with me long from now.

In Summary

My big takeaway here is that I’ve always had an element of advertising built in. This whole book was an ad for me, and you’d be lying to say I didn’t sell you on my cool brand. This was a compelling story, and “monkey kong” is as clear a call-to-action as any I’ve seen.

Thanks for joining me for this exercise, and please always remember to apply a critical eye to your own work, no matter the medium or industry. We’ll all be better for it.

- Tyler




I’ve seen it all folks - the good, the bad and the incredibly unprepared. We get many applications at redthread every month, and I’ve quickly determined what really makes an applicant and application NOT tick. Below are some quick tips that are guaranteed to make sure you don’t get hired at redthread.
It’s been a love affair with the wild wild west of advertising - particularly since joining redthread two months ago! Everyday I’m challenged as a copywriter, hone in on my writing skills, all while dusting off the cobwebs to the artistic network of neurons branching across multiple brain quadrants!