I’ve known this day was coming.
The moment I signed the papers and officially rejoined RIGGS Partners, a trio of realizations set in, each one spiking my anxiety level slightly more than the last.
“That’s right, they blog,” I thought, passing the contract back across the table.
“I mean…we blog.”
“Oh lord, I’m going to have to blog.”
One wouldn’t expect this to be such a daunting prospect for someone who trades in words and ideas for a living. But I began to sweat it on the spot. Yes, I enjoy writing. I’ve even blogged once or thrice for my own self. But this blog, this first post, wouldn’t be just writing. As the new Creative Director, I would have to introduce myself, make a statement. I would need to communicate something important about me to an audience of clients. I’d be talking directly to you.
What could I say to make you as excited about the future as I am? How could I reassure you that I would be a good steward of your brand and work tirelessly on its behalf? Where might I find the words to articulate what I was all about and why that was going to be a good thing for you?
Walking out of the office that Saturday afternoon, I registered the challenge that would soon lay before me and decided there was only one suitable course of action: Total avoidance.
That’s right. My first day was a week away. I had already settled things up with the friends at my previous shop. That left seven days to spend ordering household affairs, centering myself and, most certainly, running from the shadow of this damned blog post.
I’d made it to day five when that shadow caught up with me in the place most everything of consequence does — standing waist deep in a river, failing to outsmart creatures with brains the size of my thumbnail. I am, you see, a recent convert to the art of fly-fishing.
My father did his best to interest me in this when I was a teenager. So, naturally, it was ignored alongside every other piece of truth or beauty he worked to instill at the time. As such, I have only been properly engaged in the sport for the last two years, which is to say that I’m not very good at it.
Proficiency has little to do with enthusiasm, however, and I decided to spend the last two days of my hiatus on the Davidson River in Western North Carolina. It’s a beautiful spot that has routinely humbled me, its trout being easily spooked and always skeptical of my offerings. I’ve stared at the river’s mottled bed long enough to overlook fish which should have been caught and swear to see others that never existed.
True to form, this trip had delivered me into a seventh troutless hour when the shadow began to creep overhead. By that point, I had tied on nearly every fly at my disposal. I had led them downstream over and over again at every conceivable depth. I had cast, and cast, and cast.
Thus, with no fish to distract me, my thoughts soon emptied into the pools of uncertainty and expectation regarding the new chapter I would begin back in Columbia. I caught myself auditioning angles for this post and sarcastically remarked that I might as well be back in the office, feet up on the desk staring into the blinding white of a blank page. And that’s when it became clear how closely my profession mirrors the pastime that periodically interrupts it.
Be it on streams or in sketchbooks, we cast doggedly toward the barely visible — something we trust is out there. The right words. The perfect images. The strategies and narratives that steal beneath the surface of conventional thinking. The concepts that can bring a brand to life. It’s why I count creatives and anglers among the quintessential optimists. They never forget what the next cast, the next idea, could mean.
It wasn’t until the sun ducked below the timberline and the water around me had given up its reflections that I reached for a small, neglected box of dry flies. Though there is undeniable excitement in using these feather-light imitations to mimic insects floating on the water’s surface, they are far more difficult to present than their swift sinking counterparts. Despite two years of trying, I had yet to catch a single trout on a dry.
But with only minutes separating me from total darkness, prior experience and conventional wisdom yielded to a “you never know” approach. Tying on a #16 Parachute Adams, I squinted towards what might have been a rise near the bank. On my third cast, I managed to shoot the weightless fly out further than the heavier line and, with a quick mend, kept the current from dragging the whole parade of tackle unnaturally downstream. Just as the fly reached the end of its drift a small ring appeared in front and gently sipped it underneath. A second later, my line surged tight. A steep, diagonal tether formed from my raised arms to where the fly had just disappeared, and the trembling rod doubled over, its reel whining against my right ear. A few glimpses during the fight hinted at a brown trout, which my net ultimately confirmed. The fish was not as big as its strength had suggested, but big enough to change how the entire day would be recalled.
The next cast. It can mean everything.
That evening as I sat on a tailgate, staring into the fire and enjoying that pleasant ache of physical expense, I circled back to the clients and questions that awaited me in the coming week. I thought about that blank page and all that might be done with it.
Eventually an idea surfaced and hinted at how I might introduce myself. I began to see a way of telling you something important about me. That I will treat your brand as if it were my own. That beneath all the wise cracks and devil’s advocating, I am truly an optimist. That I plan to tie on everything at my disposal to get the right ideas for you. And that I will cast and cast and cast.
Pleasure to meet you. Let’s get to work.