On creative philosophy: The “Creative Athlete” remains relevant and always in the game.
August 8, 2013
My last post was about “responsible passion” as creative philosophy. I wrote that whatever the philosophy a creative professional has it must strike a balance between passion and responsibility. We are craftsmen as well as salesmen. To do the job right “you gotta to do both.”
Now I’m going to talk about staying creatively fit and remaining relevant, which, in my view, is critical to any creative philosophy.
I believe in what I like to call the “creative athlete.” He or she is creatively fit, physically and mentally. He relentlessly works his craft. She takes classes and workshops. They are students of the game.
They are also switch hitters, in that he or she thinks about their agency from every skill position and can play there if necessary. A good copywriter is a planner. A good art director knows how to interface with clients. All are good salesman, if called upon.
The creative professional may prefer working alone or with a partner but is also a competent and enthusiastic team player. When I was coming up at Leo Burnett, I totally related to the founder’s screed regarding the “lonely man,” this romantic figure who wrote into the wee hours, etc. I had to adapt my game to accommodate the many others who ultimately affect a project.
When creative athletes become creative directors they remain active in their core skill. They get better at the other ones. They remain teachable and open-minded. I firmly believe in the player-coach. If I were to stop writing I would lose the ability to judge writing. I would also begin the not-very-slow fade into irrelevance.
Remaining relevant is, in itself, a creative philosophy. Honestly, I don’t know how a creative director can do the job well if he or she isn’t banging away on every other brief at the agency. I suppose some do but that’s not how I roll. A writer writes. Right?
Being fit creatively is both mental and physical. I think a good salesperson looks good doing it. They are pumped to be working one of the coolest jobs in the world. I’m not talking about jackets and skirts. Lord knows I don’t adhere to any dress code. Just don’t skulk.
Finally, I believe in the basic tenants of a liberal arts education; in that a good creative professional is knowledgeable about our culture in all its forms. He or she is a consumer of it as well as a creator. That means we must have a working knowledge of TV shows we don’t like and music we don’t listen to. For example, I loathe “The Bachelor” but I’ve seen it. I cannot stand gossip magazines but I read my wife’s copies. And so on. We go to movies. We make Vines. We Tweet. We read. The copywriter who hates pop culture and avoids much of it cannot possibly serve our craft.
I hope these last two posts have been helpful. While I am hardly the consummate teacher I have done this job for over 20 years. I know a thing or ten, many of them learned the hard way. Whether or not one agrees with me on all matters isn’t critical. Your creative philosophy can and should vary. Just as long as you have one and that you are open to changing it.