5 Random Thoughts On…

My blog I've ignored for 2 years while attending the Brandcenter

Turning My Life Upside Down


Some of you might have seen the post a few weeks ago titled Brandcenter Copywriting Ads. In it, I displayed ads that were part of an application I submitted to The Brandcenter at VCU. The Brandcenter is a post-graduate program designed to prepare students for the world of advertising.

I found out on Friday I was accepted into the Copywriting track.

I was thrilled. Putting together this application was one of the more challenging projects of my life.

I discovered The Brandcenter last year and was distraught to find the application deadline had passed. Since they only have fall enrollment I needed to wait until January 2014 before I could even apply.

It seemed like forever. But during this waiting period, I had the great idea of starting this blog to get into the habit of writing.

When I received the email congratulating me on getting in a wave of relief rushed through me. I smiled at my phone as I read and reread the email. I began to text my wife. I promised her that I would tell her the moment I heard.

As the texts flew between us, I still was riding the high of my accomplishment, but I was also feeling something else. It was an uncomfortable something that was wandering around the back of my head. This something skulked the shadows of my subconscious. It would peek out only long enough to make its presence known before disappearing.

It started out as restlessness. It felt like my fingers and toes were falling asleep. This anxiousness evolved into a voice. It was a quiet questioning voice just above a whisper. It would appear like a puff of smoke and float around me, circling me. Barely holding its form while riding an invisible current of self-doubt. I wanted to wave it away, but it would dissipate before I could lift my arm then another would appear.

This voice was never loud. It didn’t need to shout. Instead, it relied on intimacy. The voice knew what to say to me because it was my voice that I was hearing.

“Not everyone gets their dream job. Suck it up, you big baby.”

“Why can’t you just settle on a career and stick with it?”

“Who do you think you are? Special? You’re not.”

“Are you going to do this to your loved ones?”

“You already missed your window pal.”

“You are too old for this nonsense.”

“Just take care of your family.”

“No one will ever hire you.”

“You’ve wasted your life.”

“You waited too long.”

“You’re no writer.”

“You will fail.”

“Grow up.”


I closed my eyes and squeezed my phone. The pressure didn’t silence them. The voices meshed together in an incoherent white noise that filled my brain.

“Why am I doing this?”  I whispered to myself as I pressed the corner of my phone into the middle of my forehead.

Before I could answer my question, the phone rang. It was my wife. She was tired of texting and wanted to talk to me. I answered my phone with a swipe of my thumb and a weak “Hi.”

She didn’t say hi back. Instead, she blasted me with a shockwave of excitement.













The whispers inside my head were silent. They tried to disappear. They sought to hide from the joy in my wife’s voice. Her excitement and love didn’t chase them away. They hunted the whispers down. They searched every nook and dark corner of my brain. Grabbed them by their ankles and dragged them out kicking and screaming. My wife’s joy didn’t just extinguish these doubting voices they gave them wedgies and stole their lunch money before evicting them from my brain.

So I decided to turn my life upside down. To return to school to break into a profession that covets youth, creativity, and skinny jeans.

Am I scared? Yes.

Do I look good in skinny jeans? NO.

Am I making a terrible mistake? No? I mean, No.

Do I think I can do this?


– Ray

8 comments on “Turning My Life Upside Down

  1. Pingback: Ruby | 5 Random Thoughts On...

  2. Sam
    August 17, 2014

    So excited for you! I ran into your blog looking for tidbits on applying and saw your ads (loved them!) and I’m so glad you’re in. Don’t let the voices discourage you, it’s never too late. Best of luck!

    • raytolbert
      August 18, 2014

      Thanks! That was so nice of you. I start classes Thursday so this was exactly what I needed to hear. Good luck if you end up applying! Have you picked a track?

      • Sam
        August 19, 2014

        I’m going towards art direction and scheduled my visit for oft 24th. I’m super excited but also very nervous. Have fun!

  3. CN
    March 24, 2015

    Hey! A little late here, but congratulations! I came across your application ads today as I was browsing for creative ideas. Just found out I didn’t get accepted to the Copywriting track for 2015 and figured I should get crackin’ for next year. Your ads were Awesome with a capital A. A whole other caliber for sure- very inspiring. Hope you’re enjoying your first year at the Brandcenter! I’m sure you’re doing great 🙂

    • raytolbert
      March 25, 2015

      Hey thanks! The Brandcenter is keeping me crazy busy (you might have noticed that my blogging stopped right around when I started here).

      Sorry about 2015 but I’m glad you’re going to try again. Some unsolicited advice, avoid puns (they hate them here).

      Don’t think about how a company would never run an ad like this. They want to see how your brain works. They’d rather you go over the line and they have to pull you back than you never approaching the line.
      But don’t be shocking just to be shocking. There must be a reason.

      Work on developing a voice. I started this blog as a way to get in the habit of writing every day. It helps. You don’t need to start a blog or even have anyone read what you’re writing. I started with recaps every week of my favorite show. It gave me a deadline.

      When you reapply try and work with someone who is a graphic designer to help you with your ads.

      Also find someone who will give you their honest opinion about your work. Not your mom or significant other. If you show them a piece and you need to explain it to them, it’s not finished.

      Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean the ad needs to have a ton of copy.

      Brevity is beautiful.

      Don’t ever use the words “very” or “basically”. Also, adverbs are a crutch.

      When putting your application together use nice paper and display them in a way that shows that you care about your work.

      Hope this helps.

      Good luck.

  4. CN
    March 25, 2015

    Oh, wow! I wasn’t expecting a response. Thanks so much! I really appreciate your advice.

    I did a bit of reflecting the other day about why I didn’t get in and I was 99% sure it was because I submitted subpar ads. I just didn’t feel good about them. After reading your post here, I’m now 100% sure that’s the reason.

    Although I’m disappointed, I think this was a great (and necessary) learning lesson. Need some time to really hone my skills and I can use a year! First time around I was shooting from the hip, now I have some experience and a strategy.

    Again, thanks for your help and for sharing your work.

    Best of luck in everything!

  5. What Is Copywriting?
    May 8, 2018

    Thank you for a wonderful blog post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 10, 2014 by in Brandcenter, Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
Bri Bruce Productions

Design | Publishing | Photography | Art


Mr. Fenske is a professor at VCU Brandcenter in Richmond VA. The site is an extension of his efforts in the classroom, except for the cartoons, which seem to grow out of some disaffection he feels with the world. Thank you for visiting. © Mark Fenske

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

I Can't Possibly Be Wrong All the Time

You Might Have the Better Claim But I Have the Bigger Army

Street of Dreams

A literary blog of poet, playwright and essayist Rachael Stanford

Best Places to Work

Culture at The Motley Fool

Advertising's Inferno

The Slow Descent into the World of Advertising.

Art Attack

Discovering art in everything

so that HE might increase

he must increase, but i must decrease. john 3:30.

Andrew & Sarabeth

He likes movies. She likes baking. They YouTube.

milk and mojitos

have fun...live fun

%d bloggers like this: