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Posts Tagged ‘creatives’

Grab Yourself a Soapbox.

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

Madison Ave

In days of old in the world of advertising–many refer to it as “The Golden Age”–when major accounts were lost, heads rolled and the blood flowed down the glorious street known as “Madison Avenue.” Creatives and AEs alike commiserated over martinis that in weeks prior, would have served as lunch with the client. Oh, how the times have changed… Or have they?

Certain financial collapses in recent history knocked the wind out of many of the industry’s best and brightest, and that’s putting it mildly. But when the chips fell and after the dust settled, the light changed. Something was different… Or was it? Folks everywhere, from CEOs to CSRs and from CDs to JADs were talking. But it wasn’t over the phone or over lunch, or even via email. (O.K., well, yes; some of these things still do take place, thank god.) It was online via channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Texts. Tweets. Yelps. Etcetera. Communication changed. Mass communication–has changed. An aside, to many who may read this: it will seem akin to a brand new culinary student talking to Alain Ducasse about frying eggs. Hmmm. I am not a social media wizard by any stretch of the imagination. However, and as a writer, I do notice things from time to time.

That said, some things that haven’t changed in our world: creatives still bemoan their misfortune when they find themselves out of work… “But I DROVE that campaign. It was MY idea, MY design and/or MY COPY.” Or, “I’ve been kicked to the curb for some f***ing kid that designs hypertext links. He wouldn’t know a concept if it bit him in the f***ing ass. Do you know how many One Show Pencils I’ve won? I can tell you how many he’s won. That’s right. ZERO.” (See recent post at http://TalentZoo.com entitled, Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye.)

Um… maybe it’s just me. Or maybe some of us have forgotten what it’s like to be hungry. It can hurt. A lot. But something else good can happen if you’re aware enough, scrappy enough, and once you’ve quit hanging your head between your knees. You get your edge back. Now, the truth for me is that I’m not where I’d like to be… just yet. On the other hand, I think there will always be a part of me that isn’t satisfied unless I’m dissatisfied. That is to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever be “Where I want to be.” I’ve heard some say that once you get to that place… the place that–before you got there–seemed so great–your perspective changes, and it wasn’t at all what you’d thought. Now, you want something else. Something better. I’ve also heard it said that getting fired makes you stronger. Tougher. If it doesn’t first drive you crazy… I wonder what Nirvana is like. I wonder if once you get there, you think, “Ehn,” …anyway.

This is the deal (and the part where I tell Chef Ducasse all about frying eggs):

Chef Ducasse

The landscape has changed. The world has changed. We are in a new era. Right now, the buzzwords are “social media…” “new media.” Oooh. Ahhh. Tomorrow they will be something newer. One thing that hasn’t changed? People. People still want to be wowed and excited and drawn in. They still want to be driven to ecstasy–and then held. In fact, maybe now, more than ever before. Frankly, so much (and I think many of you will agree, Creatives) in our world that lauds itself as “creative”–sucks. Maybe that’s why people are so bored and tired and are quite content in their own magical mini light-box worlds that fit in the palms of their hands. Maybe as a society and on the whole, we have become one great bunch of fat, lazy sods. Maybe I’m harsh. *sigh* Oh, well. But–my dear, sweet, lovely Creatives–and I mean this with all my heart–I know your pain. But I truly believe the answer does not lie in whacking the hypertext kid. Because The Man is, in effect, a junkie. He will find another hypertext kid. The trick, it would seem, is not even to try and figure out how to win back The Man. The trick is to figure out how to cut The Man out of the picture entirely. We’re talking Frank Lucas-style, Baby.

Frank Lucas, CEO Extraordinaire (a.k.a. American Gangster)

(O.K., well, maybe not quite that cold, and uh… illegal. But you get my meaning.) The trick, it would seem, is to become what some (Seth Godin) would call, a Linchpin. Relearn how to Fascinate (by Sally Hogshead). Or, as Hugh MacLeod would say, “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally f***ing amazing is job one.”

So, kids… Creative Beasts… have at it. Find a way. SEIZE THE PREY.

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Keep Going. There is beauty yet to come.

July 8th, 2009 1 comment


This blog goes out to my very dear friend, whom I will simply refer to as “Super-T,” who moves and grooves with the dexterity of a lizard, and who sometimes forgets, but he is also the most tater-bob dude that ever existed.

A few days ago, I had the privilege to spend time with another dear friend of mine, Adam–a brilliant artist and graphic designer, and a true Creative Beast. Talking with him inspired me and gave me encouragement.

I begin this post by saying that some friendships are real gifts. And I suppose it is ironic, but I now know it to be true that sometimes what can seem to be the toughest, most challenging friendships of our lives are also sometimes some of the deepest and richest ones–in addition to being the ones that teach us the most valuable lessons. It hearkens the saying that it isn’t the destinations that make us who we are, but the journeys that we make to reach them. Certain journeys–and life changing events–can sometimes crush us… and sometimes they can save us.

I love my friends. I don’t always get to tell them how much the things they do and say–whether they are big or small–matter to me. Sometimes simply possessing the ability to make someone laugh or smile… the ability to evoke–can have a tremendously earth shaking effect. I have said this before, but I’ll say it again: Creative Beasts are powerful, brilliant souls. They tend to be very intense, even if it’s in a very quiet sort of way, but they can also be extremely fragile. This knowledge can be heavy. In our creative circles, we all likely know someone, or perhaps even several people whose intensity is at times, a great joy to come into contact with, and at other times, it’s saddening or maddening. For me, it seems like it’s just about everyone I know. Why? Just lucky, I guess (and if you are one of these people, do me a favor–relax. I’m kidding… sort of. Try not to take yourself so seriously). It’s the agony and the ecstasy. Three of my creative friends have committed suicide, all within the last ten years. First was Dave; a brilliant filmmaker/director who taught me that animators are among the most patient people on the planet… usually. Then there was Jen; a great, beautiful, quiet and quick-witted writer whose wonderful sense of humor was matched by her generous and gracious spirit. Just one year later in November of 2008, I lost my friend, Brian, who was an amazingly gifted photographer, a fantastic cook, and just wickedly sharp in countless ways. Each and every one them had an energy–an intensity–that could fill any room. That said, you can imagine how the loss of each person reverberated. I wish there was something I could have done or said that would have kept each one from doing what they did. I think maybe this is what I would have said: “You have truly lived. You have done great things, and you have experienced great things. And you have touched a lot of lives. Do you really believe that this is it? That there is no more beauty yet to come? If so, you are wrong. Stick around a while. Keep at it. See what happens.”

Creativity doesn’t always flow the way we want it to. Sometimes we feel stuck, and it’s frustrating. Roadblocks are common. David Lynch addresses this issue in his book, Catching The Big Fish. He writes, “If you want to catch the little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.” I agree with him. Another factor in the concept of catching these big fish is having creative circles–pools, if you will, in which you may freely express yourself, bounce ideas off of others, and then build on your concepts. No one person is an island, and as it is with anything else, thoughts and expressions that are exchanged freely can exist harmoniously and in a symbiotic manner, like the ebb and flow of the tides. The sharing of ideas allows creativity, itself, to become larger and richer, like a beautiful tapestry. When there is a greater opportunity to draw from a more vibrant lexicon, creative thinkers naturally put that knowledge into everything they do. When we keep things to ourselves out of fear of loss or perhaps rejection, we risk stagnation and even collapse. Even when times are difficult, and perhaps especially when times are difficult, it is better to share and connect with others. We see this example again and again made by successful people throughout history. One example that comes to mind is advertising great, David Ogilvy. He went against the grain and leapt ahead of his competitors by insisting that indeed; you must literally give away your trade secrets to win clients. His peers thought he was crazy, and maybe he was… crazy, like a fox. He was right. His ideas worked, and he made history.

Now David Ogilvy is dead and gone, and some of today’s ad geeks giggle and scoff at his ideas, but I think there isn’t one among them who wouldn’t give their eye teeth to reach the peaks that he did. Genius, as it turns out, is pretty timeless. And it takes bravery–and faith–to be creative. Some people might tell you you’re great, and some might tell you you suck… or that you are crazy. It’s not always easy to push forward, and for whatever reason, it’s sometimes easier to accept defeat or criticism, than it is to accept success and praise. If you have any desire to create, or to see an idea come to fruition, keep going with it. If it’s a passion within you, keep that fire burning. There is a reason for it. You must believe that.

Do you realize that time goes fast?
It’s hard to make the good things last
Do you realize the sun doesn’t go down?
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

–The Flaming Lips

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So you don’t fit in. Good.

June 2nd, 2009 6 comments
If only I were short and brownish-grey.

"If only I were short and brownish-grey."

Hooray for coffee. I know I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last. But still… yay.

Hooray for Starbucks as well. It’s clean, friendly, smoke-free and comfortable. And I don’t care what anybody says; I even like the coffee. And they play good tunes. I like writing at the cafe sometimes. It helps to get out of the house, and have a change of scenery. You could say that it’s office away from office–home office, that is.

That said, let’s talk about environments for a moment, shall we? More specifically, work environments. How many times in your life has someone said to you, “Have you seen Office Space?” I think it’s been about a hundred times for me. And yes, I’ve seen it. It isn’t my favorite movie, or even in my top 20, but I appreciate and thoroughly understand why this flick is loved and revered by so many. Offices and corporate life can really suck, and when I say “suck,” I mean they can really and truly suck the life right out of you, and especially if you happen to be a Creative Beast. The makers of the film got that–big-time. They saluted the office stereo-types, and said “Up yours,” to the corporate assholes (and may it be noted here, that I do not feel that all corporate people are assholes. There are assholes everywhere you go, and corporate outfits are no exception. There just may be a higher percentage of them in “the office.” It seems to be par for the course. At this point you might be saying, “It takes one to know one.” And you might be right). The movie became a cult classic and a big release for everyone who has had to work in such an environment. Here’s a clip:

Now. That said, drudgerous corporate hell is not a necessity. Yeah, that’s right; it doesn’t have to be so. There are workplaces that nurture and foster creativity, and–surprise, surprise–very often, these places are considered to be the best places to work, according to surveys taken. So my question is, why don’t more companies work on creating better environments for their employees? Do all the HR text book studies really indicate that putting people in cubes with ugly brown-grey walls makes workers more productive? Because here’s the thing: Fast food restaurants have a history of using the same ugly colors in their restaurants–so that people will eat quickly and get the hell out.

I believe most companies aren’t really looking for people that think for themselves too much, and most companies do not care about the spirit of the individual. But what about the ones that do? What if more places really cared to learn about the people that they hire, and find ways to put their greatest skills and talents to use? What if more places offered work environments that encouraged individual growth in addition to the growth of the bottom line? What if more schools and educational programs were designed in the same way? I think companies with real vision do function thusly. I think the ones that prefer drab cubes and don’t want to invest in creativity are really rather old-school and backwards, and eventually, they will lose out. Basically, here’s the deal: everybody has dreams of something greater… something better… something more inspiring. That’s why shows like American Idol are wildly successful, and movies like Office Space make people LTAO, and think things like “Hell, yeah!” with fires in their bellies. Life is not about the 9-5 grind, the twenty minutes on the treadmill or the mowing of the lawn. Not that these things are evil or wrong in any way–it’s just that there is so much more to look forward to, and when people fail to recognize that, it’s sad. It makes me think that “The American Dream” in some cases has mutated into “The American Nightmare,” and that’s a shame.

Creative Beasts need each other, and they need creativity. They feed off of one another. They are wired to be inspired. They make each other laugh, and they brighten each others’ lives. They are wild, passionate, beautiful creatures that aren’t afraid to believe in things that aren’t in front of their noses. Magical things like airplanes and spaceships; aliens and Santa Claus–or Jesus, if you prefer. The point is that to be creative takes faith. More on that later. Creative Beasts are sometimes reckless, sometimes crazy and sometimes they make each other crazy–and everybody else, for that matter. But they need each other, and everybody else needs them. So if you’re a Creative Beast, and you feel like you’re somewhere that you don’t belong, chances are, you don’t. Take heart, hold your head high and keep on doin’ what you’re doin’. And ask yourself… what would the world be like without people like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Leonardo daVinci or the Wright Brothers? Beethoven, Mozart, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane or The Beatles? Madame Curie or Gertrude Ederle? Jane Austen, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, and Gilda Radner? Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Ellen DeGeneres or David Letterman? Oprah? Julia Child and Jacques Pepin? Alice Waters, Lydia Bastianich, Charlie Trotter, David Chang and Michel Bras? Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, and David Lynch? You get the idea. I could fill a book with names of people that without whose light, the world would not be nearly so bright a place. Think about it… And then give this a listen:

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Creative Moments, Shiny Baubles and Mushroom Hunting.

May 21st, 2009 4 comments
<i>Marcel in ecstasy... or something like it.</i>

Marcel (a beast) in ecstasy... or something like it.

Creative moments are fleeting. They come in glimpses like fireflies on a warm summer’s night. They are beautiful, magical and fragile. When you hold them too closely, the light goes out, and the magic is gone.

<i>Fireflies.</i>

Fireflies.

I think creative types sometimes spend so much time searching for the shiniest bauble that they fail to see the ones that roll right up to their toes. Many artists are addicted to extremes… to the edges of things, because indeed; these are the places to which others seldom venture, and therefore they abound with splendid secrets and answers to questions most dare not even ask–or so it would seem. However. Extreme existences can be extremely exhausting, going from agony to ecstasy to agony, and very little in between. Furthermore, it may very well be a waste of creative energy.

By paying closer attention to the subtleties and nuances of daily life, it may be possible to experience an even greater level of awareness and overall personal fulfillment. It requires patience, discipline, focus, openness and concentration. These are things I’m working on wrapping my head around in order to achieve a greater sense of passion and fulfillment.

Recently, I parted ways with a job that as it turned out, wasn’t a great fit for either party. I was looking for a role that offered more creativity as a copywriter, and eventually it became like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And this square peg is here to say that when you keep trying to wear down your own edges to fit into a particular mold, not only is it counter productive; it’s downright painful. The lesson here for Creative Beasts is A) try to avoid these situations whenever possible, and B) if people aren’t buying your brand of honey, find somebody else who gets and appreciates its value. Artists get paid when they meet/find their market. That is appreciation, and from that comes gratification.

While the initial parting of ways was a bit sad for me at first, I soon realized that it may have been the best thing that could have happened. Now I have the chance to leap headlong into new creative endeavors, and see where they lead… writing, painting and filmmaking projects await. Passions are reborn.

Aside from that, I have since discovered a new passion which is morel hunting. For those who are unfamiliar, morels are exquisite mushrooms that grow only in the wild, and only in the spring for a period of 2-3 weeks. They look a bit like a piece of coral on a stalk, and they are perfectly delicious and altogether magical. They grow in the woods when everything is just coming back to life. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of seeking out this magnificent edible is the chance to witness nature in all its splendorous glory. Then there is finding the morels, which, incidentally, has turned out to be a wonderful metaphor for my current place in my creative path. Sometimes you look and look and you find little or nothing. Then, you cross a road or a stream, and there they are. You may not see them at first. They are elusive and well-camouflaged. But as you squat down, and look hard and close to the ground, suddenly, they start to appear right in front of you. And it is amazing.

Morel magic.

Morel magic.

If concepts like synchronicity, syncrodestiny and pursuit of passion ring true with you, I recommend checking out the following books/authors:

Deepak Chopra

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

Malcomb Gladwell

Outliers

Blink

The Tipping Point

Sally Hogshead

Radical Careering

David Lynch

Catching the Big Fish

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