ICONOCLASM INTERVIEW SERIES SUBJECT #2 — Jess Manuszak, Author, Copywriter, and Branding Guru
I’m a huge believer in both the significance of numbers and the ability to sit patiently in accordance with the universe and allowing it to provide you with your most ideal creative direction. Thus, on the weekend after the first anniversary of the 2016 Presidential Election, on Saturday, November 11, 2017, I decided to take a chance on myself and invest time, effort and energy into honing my best creative self. The result is “Iconoclasm.” It’s a regular series of interviews (possibly eventually more) wherein, in accordance with the definition of the word “iconoclasm,” I decided to throw caution to the wind and assertively challenge people whose creative output I cherish, and via their production have created beliefs, values, and practices that have significantly altered the course of my life.
What I have done is sent an email of introduction and thanks to a select, and diverse crew of people who have aided in my journey to joy as a creative being, and as well, been key in my discovery of a sense of empowerment via self-expression. I noted that I wanted to interview them because “something tells me that given the era with which we’re presently confronted, that there’s something significant in being able to empower those who may be nervous about discovering their own best selves as unique creative forces, or even greater, as progressive leaders of underground-to-mainstream communities.” Upon receiving a response, I then, very nervously sent questions to these people — many of whom I view as living legends — and awaited a response. What exists below, is, unedited, the response from someone I value about issues regarding evolving into our best selves with which we should all be aware.
If I have learned anything in the 25 years that I have been an internet user, it’s that the world wide web is best when regarded as being a continuous source of of fortuitous accidents that provide continuous learning experiences. How I met entrepreneurial Verve and Vigour branding company founder, award-winning blogger, best-selling author, top-tier copywriter, and my good friend Jessica Manuszak is both a happy accident and a continuous learning experience.
Jess is one of the naturally frankest and funniest people I know, which in many ways is related to why she’s such a gifted copywriter. Her greatest asset is in her ability to blend language with impact, thus reaching peak provocativeness in a seemingly effortless manner.
We initially met because she intercepted an email that I had sent The Middle Finger Project founder Ash Ambirge for a project years ago that, amazingly enough, evolved into this. In the midst of researching who Jess was and why she had answered, I learned that Ash was her mentor, and Jess was working for her. I immediately felt a kinship as her career evolution was so similar to my own. However, it’s in watching her transition away from TMFP to Verve and Vigour, as well as writing, Kickstarting, and releasing her honest and overall fantastic book Please Validate My Existence where she provided me with tremendous perspective on the endure stress and break a sweat while working, with the finished product being a beautiful showcase of how to thrive and excel in the face of pretty much anything. This interview was a pleasure to conduct.
You wrote a book entitled Please Validate My Existence. At what point in the process of finishing that did you feel “valid?” I’d presume that writing through your experiences in such a frank manner may have re-framed them in some way. Or, am I completely wrong here? If so, why?
I’m pretty sure feeling validated, enough, and whole has absolutely nothing to do with everyone else, and everything to do with yourself. Honestly, writing the book made me wildly self-conscious and unsure, and I hated most of the process. That said, living with that unfulfillment after the fact was a big eye-opener that validation was my job — not someone else’s.
I feel strongly that copywriting is about crafting narratives. In the current sociopolitical environment in North America, has your creative process reflected this, or, more directly, have you caught yourself framing a narrative through a voice and had to stop to like, more broadly align your words with a brand?
While I’ve always operated my business under the umbrella of “Do no harm but take no shit,” the current climate has made me a lot more away of what I’m putting out into the world. On the whole, my language has been trending towards the kind, and I’ve turned away countless clients this year because I’ve refused to do “pain points” in the traditional sense. It feels like the world is running on hate at high volume. Why put more of that awful, useless poison into the world? Plus, poison doesn’t sell stuff — hope does.
As we move into the digital age, the relationship between narrators, their lives, and the spaces they inhabit has evolved considerably. As a writer, do you think about the power of the first-person narrative voice in this era as opposed to before? If so, what do you think is terrific about where we are, and as well, what’s potentially frightening?
On the one hand, I love that every person has a voice, and more than that, a place for that view. That said, it gets dicey when that poison starts seeping in. Do I need to throw around the words “fake news”? The first-person narrative is incredible for self-discovery and forging connections, but it’d be irresponsible not also to acknowledge that when every member of the chorus sings, some members need to be told to STFU.
Am I wrong to say that you live a life that’s more defined by “living intentionally” than ever before? What’s been the most freeing thing about the second, minute, hour, or day after your boldest step(s)?
The most freeing thing is realizing you can’t take it back. That your bold step propelled you into a free fall right off the cliff ledge, and your toolkit consists of just your skills and resilience. The guilt and doubt disappear, because what’s the point? You’re already over the edge. All you can do is look forward to where you’re headed.
What does it mean to be “one’s best, most loved, and most empowered self?” And, is it possible to ever reach this status?
“Most empowered self” is some straight up white girl magic bullshit that doesn’t exist. Hell, if I ever become my BEST self, please just take me out to the barn and shoot me. My sole purpose in life is to experience, and while experience can catalyze growth, the growth never ceases. So on the one hand, we’re never our best selves. But on the other, aren’t we always, in that moment? Overall though, I call horseshit.