Article first published in Campaign.
The words “creative” and “process” don’t really belong in the same sentence.
You can try and put a process on creativity. But somewhere along the way, it will fail.
Not fail in a cancel the project, lose the account, lose your job kind of way.
More in an argh, let’s “put our foot on the ball” (please stop saying this) and brief another team kind of way.
When you haven’t cracked it by the third review.
When the client loves it, but wants to change it. ALL OF IT.
When you’ve done all the work but you’re missing that pitch-winning endline and brief the entire department to write five pages of endlines and have the teams reel them off in some sort of Iannucian nightmare…that’s the creative process failing.
Or is it?
Perhaps the most crucial part of “the creative process” is its breaking point.
I used to fight it. I put processes in place that were more likely to guarantee a better outcome, quicker. Sometimes they did. More often they didn’t.
I thought AN answer in a timely fashion was better than THE answer at the eleventh hour.
But now I’m not so sure.
Perhaps that itchy, creeping feeling of discomfort is the good ship creativity edging closer to the brink of the known universe, beyond the sea of mediocrity and into the great unknown.
And I suspect it’s my job to make people feel a little of that discomfort.
Make clients uncomfortable with rational, evidenced decisions.
Make creatives uncomfortable with the run of the mill, the easy win.
Make suits and strategists uncomfortable with the status quo.
I’m not entirely clear on what the status quo is, but important people seem to say it a lot so I thought I’d get it in there.
When things are getting uncomfortable and someone is raising their foot in the general direction of a ball, remember – it’s not a process, it’s a dance.
Two steps forward, eight steps back. It’s messy. It’s passionate. It’s thrilling.
And those comfortable in the dance, that lose themselves in the music, make the best work.
Have you seen LA Story? You should see LA Story. LA Story is jam-packed with lovely little ideas. Like a series of sketches parodying life in the 1990s.
In LA Story, British fish-out-of-water Greta Scacchi describes roller-skating for the first time. “I went slamming into this eight-foot tall black guy in a green satin jump suit. I said, ‘I’m sorry, could you help me?’ And he looked at me with these deeply stoned eyes and said, ‘Lady, let your mind go and your body will follow.’”
When things go awry I often return to the eight-foot tall black guy in a green satin jump suit with the deeply stoned eyes.
Lady, he says to me, put on your roller-skates.
And for crying out loud, nobody panic and turn the bloody music off.