Yesterday's email from the Telly Awards letting me know that I am now an 11-time winner launched a quickie celebration until the very next email reminded me of the pending deadlines I have on a handful of projects, each demanding their own slice of greatness.
Where to begin?
It's been a process on my old 1940's typewriter as I pound out rotten idea after crummy thought after regrettable copy. Yeah, the creative process can be drag, but usually it all works out at the 11th hour. I love to work alone in the middle of the day, blinds closed with a stray light somewhere near and talk radio blabbing on about everything and nothing at the same time. When I work in a team, I tend to drive people a bit insane. I talk and talk a lot once I grab the floor of the conversation, filibuster-style, never relenting long enough without recapping a life of dreams, with just the right blend of decades-old agency stories and ex-wife nightmares. Or so I think at the time. This is, after all, my strong suit. I love to lecture about our moral responsibilities in advertising.
Sometimes being alone allows me just the right space to find the right mix of genius and tact necessary to deliver a winning campaigns.
One thing I've discovered is that the first step to creativity is knowing how to ask the right questions; and it doesn’t have to happen on a hilltop while meditating in Zen mode during deep Buddhist chanting while birds chirp the rhythm of your future jingle.
No...creativity comes out when you need a solution -- and none of the old solutions work. That’s when you get imaginative.
A Harvard Business Review article on creative thinking says it this way:
...Imagine ways out of the fix you’re in by imagining that the circumstances blocking your progress are being lifted one by one. This produces different versions of the challenge. One of these new hypothetical versions may well resemble a type of problem that you have solved in the past. Your mind will then fire out a whole new set of solutions, one or more of which may work. If the solution you select for the new version of the challenge is untypical for the original version, it can certainly qualify as a creative solution to the new one...
It’s like dreaming. One of the theories about why we dream states that we dream to prepare ourselves for things that maaaaaaaaybe, just maybe, will happen to us. This exercise in creativity goes the same way: by reimagining our situation to appear a tiny bit different, maybe we’ll see an out -- or an in -- that we couldn’t imagine before. You know, goof old fashioned mental magnet flipping.
When I'm stuck I pull out the typewriter and churn out lyrics from the Rolling Stones or The Dave Clark Five. It gets the melodies flowing in my head and the creative flows a bit better. Another motivational tool is looking at classic ads to reveal the brilliance and spark new thinking.
I stumbled across “Madman,” a Nike running classic from 1990. The mind can only remember so much, so when I see this ad, I can't but marvel at it's everything. The photography, the copywriting, the concept...it's one of the seminal pieces of advertising craft.
It's perfectly crafted with an economy of words that somehow has always driven my core feeling that less is more and more is less:
Mothers, there a mad man running in the streets,
And he’s humming a tune,
And he’s snarling at dogs,
And he still has four more miles to go.
Just do it.
|Click to enlarge|
Art Director: David Jenkins
Copywriter: Jerry Cronin
Photography: Arthur Meyerson
First Published: Runner’s World, January 1990