Adult Diaper Problems
It smelled of urine and dirty feet. It was a smell I was familiar, even comfortable, with, my mother having worked in numerous nursing homes throughout my childhood. I’d written my first novel in a nursing home. It was thirty pages long. Quite a feat for an eight year old. Today I wasn’t to write anything as lofty. My assignment was a few simple lines of ad copy for adult diapers. The perfect forum, but terrifying venture.
Over the years I’d taken any odd job writing, squeezing them in with my day jobs, my night jobs, my day school and night school. Ad copy isn’t something new to me in particular (at least now), but it is probably the least favorite writing work I do.
How to accurately convey to an audience everything about and yet every promise of a product? And to make it snappy, quippy, witty and clever? Ugh. Not easy.
So why did I take the job? My big, fat mouth. I’d been shelling out advice about how writers, well, write. How I could write anything, I just preferred fiction. I’d been working on my latest novel for a while. In truth I was stalled. I had all sorts of images and ideas for scenes, but no cohesion to the storyline. I was waiting for my AH HA! moment. But while I was pounding out the word count, my novels (until they’re published) aren’t bankable work.
I had a day job; one that paid the bills, kept me up to my ears in gummy bears, and provided for the little extras. Down deep though I had the nagging feeling I wasn’t really writing however. Probably just my ego. Hell, actually I know it was my ego. I felt weird if I wasn’t selling my work. So when the job popped up in my inbox for ghostwritten ad copy, I pretty much pounced on it, intent on living my own advice – writer’s write everything. Then I saw the product: Adult Diapers. Geesh, could there be a worse ad copy to need to write when you’re twenty-two?
I had a unique perspective though. I like old people. I’ve grown up around them my whole life with a mother who was a geriatric-specialty nurse. The elderly has never made me uncomfortable, and nursing homes, for me, are just apartments with medical staff instead of a building super. No, it wasn’t the people or the place that scared the dickens out of me. It was the fact I was supposed to be writing non-fiction ad copy. Despite my bluster about writers being able to write anything, I’d never ventured outside of fiction previously. Time to suck it up and dive in.
I picked a nursing home I was well known in, my mom having worked there for years. I’d spent every afternoon at that particular facility after school doing my homework, eating my mom’s serving of dinner in the dining room, and learning how to play Bridge and Hearts and Canasta – a true stable of games every grade school child needs in their repertoire.
Granted I hadn’t been to the facility in a number of years, my mother having retired to the private sector, and my having married and moved away, but it seemed a good place to start. Many of the old staff were still there. They remembered me well and, mostly, fondly. Although I did catch a lot of flack for my decision to not follow in my mom’s tradition and become “one of the best nurses to ever walk the face of the planet”. But it was all good. There were even a couple of residents still there I remembered, though by this point they did not remember the annoying redhead who pumped them for stories of their lives day after day.
In advance I had contacted the facility, arranged to have free samples of the product delivered to specific residents on the premise I’d visit in a couple of weeks to get their opinion on the product. I was hoping for an easy sound bite to slap onto the copy. One I didn’t have to work too hard for in the long run. I ended up getting a lot more than a bargained for though.
Old people are weird. They’re quirky. They’re full of proverbial piss and vinegar. All valid reasons I love them. When you’re getting honest opinions of products they’ve used however, hoping for useable ad copy, weird, quirky, and piss and vinegar are hilarious but a bit difficult to convert into useable sound bites. My day ended up consisting of two old men who whipped off their diapers and flashed me, a near-catatonic woman (I was not told her condition when I sent over the free samples naturally) who only drew on the diaper she wore, the one I handed to her, and then my arm, and another old lady who reminded me she could “have a damn baby” if she wanted to, the “hole was still the same after all”.
I spent several hours interviewing the product users, only to come away with nothing remotely useable for ad copy. I left the nursing home feeling dejected, worried about a looming deadline, and questioning my big mouth’s boast that, as a writer, I could write anything.
I slammed the car door shut behind me, crammed my keys in the ignition, and practically floored it home, the radio cranked as loud as it could go. I fumed in my little bruised ego world until finally a snippet of what was said that day wormed its way from my subconscious and into my waking mind.
“The hole was still the same after all…”
It had absolutely nothing to do with the ad copy I needed to write, but all of the sudden the fictional world I was desperately trying to knit together fused with a spunky old lady character. I pressed the pedal to the floor and flew home. All my husband received was a firm hand held up as I plowed through the house to park myself at my Stone Age laptop.
The writing poured out of me. I logged over ten thousand words in the next five hours at the computer, no time for food or bathroom breaks or my husband. I’ve rarely had such inspired time writing. But the best part of it? Sometime during that five hours, somewhere in the midst of wizards and war and political intrigues, three lines of ad copy about adult diapers magically appeared. The smell of urine and dirty feet were the key alchemist’s ingredients to solving both my writing dilemmas. Who knew?
About BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of A Touch of Darkness and A Touch of Madness, both Abigail St. Michael novels. Her work has been included in three, multi-author anthologies – Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories, and A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. She has published a dark fantasy novel, Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows previously under the pen name B.B. Walter.
She lives in Arizona and on tequila and gummy bear-related products. She spends her free time bicycling, performing in Community Theater, and spends way too much time on karaoke, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. She is legendary for her mismatched sock collection.