Bits & Pieces?
I love “not knowing.”
I love writing songs because generally I have no idea what that song is going to sound like when I’m done. I love taking little photo journeys, wondering what kind of shots I’m going to get. And in my job in advertising, I love the next creative opportunity and wondering how I, along with the team, are going to solve it. The “not knowing” is part of the thrill of the chase.
But if you’re creative, like me, you run into brick walls periodically. For me the brick wall is usually fortified with some kind of impenetrable force that stifles my enthusiasm, desire, and willingness to try harder.
As you grow as a creative person, the brick wall is perceived as a number of different things: the reason to quit your job, the reason you suck, the reason advertising may not be your calling, the reason to stop searching Some of these things may or may not be true. Generally, based on my experience, they’re not. (And really, we should never stop searching.)
But I have figured out the reason the brick wall exists. It exists because, generally speaking I “know too much.”
Let me explain.
As creative people, over time, we take on baggage. When you first start a creative endeavor, the only baggage you have is your own tendencies as a creative person, your past experience, and the things going on in your life. Your baggage, as far as your work is concerned, is relatively light. When a new client or opportunity comes along all things seem bright — you have a new challenge and you’re excited to see what your creative output is going to be.
Then, over time, baggage starts to build up. Client meetings. Rounds of work. More meetings. Dead concepts. Corporate machinations. A victory here and there. You begin to know the client, their taste, and their goals very well. You begin to see what the limits of your creativity can be within a certain context. It’s like going to the same location to shoot photography over and over again. Or writing songs with the same band for years — there is a good reason songwriters make solo albums.
When the definition of insanity starts to creep in — you know, the whole “doing the same thing over and over again” thing — you’re in real trouble. The wall begins to build.
This baggage corners your creative psyche inside your brain armed with a knife, threatening to stab and kill it.
So what do you do? Because knowing too much can kill the creative desire to discover, you need change. A new account. A new lens. A new photo location. A new musical instrument. Heck, move around your office to get a new perspective. Agencies can shift creative teams to new accounts. Change keeps things fresh and change brings new things to discover. It can also bring you back to where you were blocked with a whole new perspective too.
It’s good for agencies to recognize those who have hit a wall and help bring about the change the staff needs. What do you think? Are you driven by not knowing?
It’s one of my lifelines. It’s something that I try and bring with me everywhere I venture. I’m constantly looking for more. Drugs? No. Not unless you argue the properties of physics. I’m talking about music. Which one could probably argue has similar effects on the body. Personally, sound has the ability to alter my mood, outlook, energy and creativity (among others) in a moment’s time. So. Sometimes I try and use this to my advantage. For instance, right now, I’m listening to a band called Efterklang. Long drawn out tones with soothing notes, a variety of voices and a repertoire of instruments puts me in a state of thought and emotion. Something I think suits whatever it is I’m trying to ultimately describe in this post. But. If I was handed a project, say for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (a hip, young, edgy client), I’d quickly sift through my library and find something like Miami Horror. With this bands uplifting melodies, steady beats, and a mixture of synths and electro-ism I feel better connected with the persona and clientele of 88Nine. It also gives me the energy I want in order to design something, I feel, would fit into 88Nine’s positive and edgy image.
Now this is just me. Your choice in music, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, could be completely opposite of mine. Or maybe you’re just not into music. But I think not only our work, but our outlook and day-to-day personalties derive from whatever was just emitted from our car speakers, our headphones, our computers or whatever that noise is coming from in the office next door. So the next time you’re having a rough day or feel like your creativity is stale, try searching for some new sounds.
Heres a few bands that immediately were adopted into my library (along with the two above):
I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to talk to college students about advertising. It’s awesomely rewarding and great to see fresh faces who, while I’m talking, realize A) that advertising is their calling, or B) That advertising is something they don’t want to be within 2 feet of, or C) I’m crazy.
One of the things I pull from for inspiration and something I use in my presentation is pages from a book by Paul Arden called “It’s Not How Good You Are. It’s How Good You Want To Be.”
It is, in my opinion, the best book about advertising ever written (feel free to share your opinion in the comments).
One of the spreads in the book, pictured above, implores the reader to “get out of advertising.” This really hit home for me because in my early days of advertising we used to surround ourselves with One Show books and Communication Arts annuals and Archive Magazines, etc. looking at ads like fanatics. There is great learning there. But thanks to digital, the advertising landscape is much more complicated. And there is so much more in to learn from the world around us.
To come up with great ideas you must branch out. You must suck up every piece of pop culture that appeals to you. Build a library in your brain of words, images, movie sequences, pop songs, photos, ephemera, and stuff that sits at the top of garbage cans. You never know.
It also has a lot to do with blogging too, which is my real reason for bringing this up. I routinely see blank faces when the prospect of blogging even enters their sphere. “What should I write about?” they ask. “I don’t know what to write about.”
I ask those that don’t know what to write about to channel Paul Arden and look around. There are topics under your nose every minute of every day. It could come out of a conversation you had. A movie you saw. A song you heard. Find a way to apply those things to the main topic of your blog. Don’t worry about eloquence, just focus on being clear. And remember, for inspiration, whenever possible, get out of advertising.
Now this is a genius idea. Write a piece of music for voice and post sheet music of the alto, soprano, tenor and bass parts. Then have singers download the part they want to sing, record their part, and send in the audio files. The result? 243 tracks of over 180 vocalists singing one gorgeous piece of music called “Lux Aurumque.” You can read “the making of” this great example of crowdsourcing here.
As a frequent reader and subscriber to the Brandflakes For Breakfast blog, I found a pleasant surprise in my email this morning – Nick’s video from the Milwaukee 99 show. See it for yourself! Do you think this will go to Nick’s head?
Featured Blog Posts
Given two studies on preference for mobile web versus mobile…
Anyone can be creative. Often the biggest obstacle to innovative…
I’m involved in a couple of professional groups that are…