Incubation in action

If all else fails, run out of gas

When George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum had worked at the White House for about a week, he got an assignment to write a speech alerting the country that a serious recession was about to begin.

Incubation in action

Fill ’er up! ‘There’s a warning light flashing on the dashboard of our economy,’ wrote a political speechwriter after running out of gas. Image by Evan Kirby

“I just couldn’t think of anything,” Frum told Terry Gross on “Fresh Air.” So the man who put the “axis” in “axis of evil” wasted the afternoon trying one thing after another, then went home, figuring he’d show up early the next day.

But the next morning — d’oh! — he remembered he had carpool duty.

“As I pull out of the driveway, the indicator light goes on in my minivan,” he said. “I ended up driving all the way to the school then all the way back to town with this indicator light flashing at me.”


“So I wrote the speech in which I said, ‘There’s a warning light flashing on the dashboard of our economy,’” he told Gross. “The president said it in the Rose Garden, and it was the quote of the week in Newsweek, and it led The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and it was on the Reuters wire.”

Call it incubation in action. Sometimes the best way to come up with a creative idea is to take your mind off of it for awhile.

  • Master the Art of the Storyteller

    My husband likes to quote Anonymous, who said: “If a man speaks in the forest, and no woman is there to hear him, is he still wrong?”

    The corporate communication writer’s corollary: If you cover your terribly serious and important stories, and nobody pays attention, does your message still make a sound?

    In this creative-writing workshop, you’ll learn how to write copy that grabs attention, keeps it longer, communicates more clearly, enhances credibility and is more likely to go viral. You’ll walk away with techniques — not just what to do, but how — for painting pictures in your audience members’ minds so they understand your points faster, enjoy your information more and remember it longer.

    At Portland creative writing workshopMaster the Art of the Storyteller — a two-day creative writing master class on July 25-26, 2018 in Portland — you’ll learn how to bring your messages to life with storytelling, wordplay and metaphor. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Grab Attention With Feature Stories: Craft creative leads and kickers.
    • Make Your Copy More Colorful: Engage readers with fun facts, juicy details.
    • Play With Your Words: Spice up your headlines, leads and sound bites with wordplay.
    • Master the Art of the Storyteller: Tap ‘the most powerful form of human communication’.
    • Add Meaning With Metaphor: Clarify complex concepts with analogy.
    • Edit, write, repeat: Bring your laptop and a story to work on, write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Master the Art of Storytelling Workshop in Portland

    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Make Your Copy More Creative workshop? Contact Ann directly.


Source: Terry Gross, “Political commentator David Frum,” “Fresh Air from WHYY,” National Public Radio, Jan. 8, 2003

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