I’m Feeling…Pewter

– by Albert Berkshire

Colour me present.

Most of my life is about describing things. Commercial products someone wants you to purchase, events you may be convinced to attend, companies you might find interesting or useful, a way to help save the planet, a way to contribute to its demise…the list goes on and on, and somedays…on and on and on. I write a lot of material for commercial radio and television, internet content and, much to my delight that they still exist, print publications. I am in the business of expression. This fact alone, if you have ever spent any amount of time with me, may be alarming as I am more recently lost for the words needed to express myself.

But give me a brief and I’m off and running. Or…writing.

I can dream up anything. I can’t promise most people will understand it – because I live on Planet Albert – but with a couple of passes over the material, I’ll polish the language to make it fluid and colourful. And colourful is one of my goals in everything I do. It may not always be what the client wants, but colourful is always the starting goal in my work.

Sidebar: I know we have discussed this in the past, I should address it again. I live in Canada and use the Queen’s English. Hence, “colour” is correctly spelled with a “u” in my neighbourhood. Same with “neighbourhood”. But I think you may have caught that. Just didn’t want you to be confused, annoyed, or feel things are off colour here. Byegones. Onward.

Colours, as ruined forever by psychologists, now represent emotions and moods. This is great news for those of us in the advertising business who wish to pull on your heartstrings. Ever wonder why all the fast food restaurants in world use some or all of the combinations of red, yellow and white? Now you know. A quasi-shrink put us onto it. This makes me feel as though the innocence of colour is gone. We’ve invaded one of the last bastions of our childhood. The little girl with the colouring book doesn’t know why she’s colouring everything pink, or green, or blue, or black. It could be that’s the crayon she chose. But if she has a few bad days at school and the teacher suddenly points out she been colouring everything with red or black (most commonly used for alcohol ads, by the way), they might suggest she is angry or depressed.

When planning a kitchen renovation the decision was made to go with black cabinets and the designer stopped and said, “Wait a minute. Any time a person wants black that sets off alarm bells that there are some serious emotional issues or problems happening.” Truth is, it just goes with the New York Loft style of the house. We got a new designer.

So what does being colourful really mean? Maybe we are expressing something from inside. Maybe we just like to colour with red and black. Maybe the use of colour is a form of expressive communication to which most humans can relate. And we all want to be able to relate.

I once had a client tell me my language was very colourful. Normally, that statement is reserved – in North America, at least – for describing a person who can make a sailor blush. Like my friend Bryan, or the guy at the football game last Friday night. But it is true, in many ways. And I use colour to describe many things.

Warm colours, cold colours, inviting colours, stalwart colours…the palate is almost never ending. If you look at a colour swatch from Farrow & Ball you’ll find thousands of colours. Colour gives us so much inspiration. Almost as much as music. Almost.

But my client wasn’t telling me that I use improper language. I don’t do that. Certainly not in the presence of a client. I’m smarter than that. He was referring to my descriptive language, and the irony that I was using colours to explain the emotion of my message. And I don’t like to use “blue” or “red” or “yellow” or “grey”. Too vague. I like the off colours. I like the descriptive colours. The colours with personality. The colours that pop off the page as much as they pop off your tongue. I like the more passionate residents of the Crayola box. I like aquamarine or scarlet or laser lemon or pewter.

I like the idea of having a colour that defines you. Don’t be orange or pink or green. Be Mango Tango. Be Flamingo. Be Magic Mint.

I’m not okay with Maize. That’s as boring as Corn. Can you imagine that language in a commercial? Let’s try it out:

Annc: “Michael Hill Jewelers presents a stunning one carat of diamonds set in a remarkable corn setting…” 

Maybe we can stick with gold for gold.

Sometimes, there is little or no colour in my language. There are times when colour is absent from all creativity. That’s when there’s a nothingness to my work. A void in the cosmos of expression. And the closest I come to applying a colour is the cold black of cheap tire rubber making circles on the bitumen. It becomes a monochromatic existence revolving around creative frustration.

This is what being stuck feels like. It fills every valuable piece of real estate in your brain. (ironically, grey matter) It gives you the shakes. It makes you physically ill. It makes every song you hear all about your failure. It bores a hole through your heart, and then eats you alive.

That’s a monochromatic moment. I’m having one now.

I have the beginning. I have the end. I have loved everything in the middle. I just can’t make it across the bridge to connect the dots. Something prevents me from getting to where I know I am supposed to go.

My crayon is broken. (I’m not the purple crayon; in case you wondered.)

And that renders everything I’ve done null and void…worthless. It makes failure’s eyes glimmer in the dimly lit corners of a colourful life.

It kills a story.

It turns light into dark. The energy of white into the depression of black. Sparkling gold turns into mustard. It turns the understated beauty of pewter into a simple old grey.

It’s a shame, because I always had an attraction to the colour pewter.


Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He makes every effort to live life to the fullest, write with passion, and see the beauty in the colour of language. Telling colourful stories about adventure – and products – is his passion in life, and has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

Heart Palpitations, Hold The Ketchup

– by Albert Berkshire

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article about writer’s block and the highs and lows of being, as my good friend Trent calls us, a Creative. It was one of those things that rattled around in my head on a four hour drive and pretty much wrote itself.

Most of the things I write are not so fluid.

I can struggle for hours, days, even weeks waiting for the little nugget to come to me that fires me up to write. Tangents don’t just happen. They have to be fueled. And whether that energy source is conversation, alcohol, the observation of sheer stupidity, people watching (the previous often a byproduct of such actions – usually in a grocery store), or my personal favourite – other people’s quirks and hang ups…

…perhaps we better explore the latter. I’m not judging you. Or you. Or you. I have some serious hang ups. S E R I O U S hang ups. For instance. I don’t like feet. I hate people’s feet. Feet whig me out in ways you can’t imagine. I once worked with a girl – let’s call her Lisa, cause that’s her name – who used to come into my office barefoot. Sure it was because she was 7, 8, 9, 10 – maybe 11 months pregnant and her feet hurt from wearing her big people shoes. But I had a rule and would promptly ask her to leave and slip some pillow covers or shams over her pedicured, but swollen feet before returning to continue talking about whatever we were discussing before her FEET came into the equation. And the first time my wife, then “friend” (I’m pretty certain she’s never read anything I’ve ever written, so we’re all safe here) put her feet up on my lap whilst watching a movie…I lost complete track of the plot line and possibly the fact that the machine started eating the VHS tape (yeah. VHS. I’m over 40. Try to get past it. I know I am.) And then there’s showering with people. YMCA? Not on your life. Years ago when I was a young single man who would do anything for girl? No way. Jodie Foster. I’d shower with Jodi Foster. I think that’s my safe zone. Right there. Jodi. Hang up solved. And there are many more. I can’t touch meat. I can’t touch someone after they’ve touched meat. If you eat meat…that’s great. Grill it up and have yourself a scoff. I’ll be in the corner like a little school girl in Halloween 20, or some other relevant horror film. I once cooked chicken for a family friend who has a severe allergy (or something medical) to all things spice. I cooked it without ever touching it. No hand or finger of Albert came in contact with the chicken parts at any time. And I had them on skewers with pineapple. That’s some serious hang up skill.

Jesus. And people pay for therapy. It cost me $10 a year for this domain name. Somewhere out there (we’re not singing yet) a psychologist is crying into her wine.

So back to other people’s hang ups. I will first point out that conversation is my greatest inspiration. I love LOVE LOVE LOVE the art of conversation. I’ll talk about anything with just about anyone. My friend Bob? We will never talk about politics because he ends every debate with “You’re my favourite liberal Canadian.” Guess what Bob – WE ALL ARE! Love ya. Mean it. (Bob’s form LA. That’ the equivalent of saying “Hi!”)

Where was I? (Oh my ghad. I have some great 3AM in LA stories. Maybe next article.)

The Hang Ups. Sounds like a B-Movie knock off.

Conversation, if you really pay attention, is one of the great pieces of humanity. If you can put your BlackBerry away for ten or sixty minutes, you’ll discover the most amazing stories that people have to tell. It is the one great benefit to our species’ evolutionary development into self-aware beings. I say this because when we listen to a person, and I mean REALLY listen to that person, we come to understand so much more about them. In particular, those of us who are so incredibly fortunate to have our hearing and sight intact, we get the bonus body language to back up the nuances (my goodness I love that word) of conversation. And in those moments when we are actively listening, doggedly ignoring all peripheral distractions, and keenly engaged, we are graced with the special revelation of that person’s most intimate characteristics.

But not just because we are listening. Because we were paying attention.

That’s when you come to not only understand the person, but to appreciate them for exactly who they are. The person who can’t take another moment in their high heel shoes. The person who really just wants to run away and start life over. The person who desperately needs their kids to take a time out. The person who gets whigged out by ketchup. (For the love of all things considered holy, it is NOT catsup. That’s two kitties getting acquainted. “Sup?” “Sup?” “Meow.” “Meow”.)

Those are the moments that make conversation the greatest purveyor of all things worth writing about. And as some people, who actually read what I write, not just glaze over it like they are icing one of Tim Horton’s finest, fully understand, when inspiration walks into the room – bare feet and all (ick) – you just have to go head down like Schroeder (not Rick, the piano one. Oh ghad I can’t believe I had to explain that one) and click away on the keys like it is going to be the last moment in your life that you’ll get to write.

And sometimes, it feels like the last time you’ll ever get to write. Actually…it feels like that a lot of the time. Even right now. Which is why, I think, I wanted to write this piece.

Last year, after I wrote that article, or blog, or piece called High Tide, someone told me it may have been the most honest thing I had ever written. And until that point, I think it was. But I now realize, like the actor standing in the rain after the girl walked away with his heart (I also love mediocre chick flicks), that that reader, that – person – was actively listening, doggedly ignoring all peripheral distractions, and keenly engaged in what I was writing.

It made my heart race.

And that’s something pretty overwhelming for a writer to experience. Someone not only got what I was saying, but could relate to what I was sharing. Maybe that’s the biggest truth in writing. Maybe that’s the experience the crack addict is lusting after when chasing the dragon. Maybe that’s the runner’s high that eludes so many people. And like the crackhead who keeps on hitting to experience again the first high, or the runner who goes a little further looking for that euphoric moment afoot, the writer just keeps on writing with the hopes that they’ll get on that roll and share something that binds him or her to that reader – that person – who’ll take to time to absorb the story.

I love stories. And I love the one that I should be working on right now. But this was in my head. And I just had to get it out.

Just like the feet had to be covered. The shower had to be shared. The meat had to be cooked. The ketchup had to be removed from the table.

Or maybe I needed to clear my head. Done.

It’s the little things.

Maybe the story I’m supposed to be working on will be the most honest thing I’ve ever written.

Maybe the story is only interesting because it keeps playing hard to get.

I mean, I’m no professor in a bean bag chair, but I think the sweetest things can make your heart race. You know it’s real when it doesn’t need any ketchup on the side.

I’ll see you around. I have a book to finish.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. Most of the time he just rambles on in a somewhat incoherent fashion, and sometimes people understand. He loves conversation, appreciates a person’s story, and likes long walks on the beach. Okay, that last one might be another hang up. Albert prefers climbing mountains. Telling other people’s stories has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.