“Say, buddy, do I need a password to log on?”

I’m having problems with my Internet. Maybe it’s the summer storms besetting Chicago or maybe one of my routers is faulty. Most likely it’s my Internet Service Provider but at least I’m considering the possibility that it’s something on my end.

In any event, all my tricks to get the Internet back failed. I tried rebooting my machines, the router, etc. Checked all the connections. Nothing turned the trick.

The last thing I want to do is get on the phone with a customer service representative from RCN. Besides I’ve already done everything he or she would tell me to do. If I must I will call them tomorrow morning.

Alas, I need a connection right now. I promised someone I’d send them some important documents, which is why I am now sitting in a Starbucks at 10 PM on a Monday evening.

Good old Starbucks: the office/library/den for so many students, job hunters and various oddballs…just like me. Currently there are about 30 people here, sitting alone, nursing “tall” coffees (the smallest size), logged on to some device and doing whatever it is they do.

What’s funny (though not surprising) is save for the innocuous drone of a CD they’re pimping this relatively full Starbucks is damn quiet. I very much doubt founder Howard Schultz (whom I’ve actually met) had this in mind when he coined Starbucks America’s “third place.” Either way, I’m sure he’s not complaining. Like I said the place is nearly full and it’s late Monday night.

And so I’m having an absolutely unnecessary cup of coffee and writing an absolutely unnecessary blog post…just like everyone else in this joint.

The artist works alone.

I’m not sure if “pleased” is the right word but I share with others a relief of sorts knowing that I’m not the only introvert making a living in the creative ranks of Adland. Since my last post on the subject, a fair number of readers commented or emailed me directly stating that they too are introverts and that it has periodically caused them a fair amount of pain. But mostly they were just relieved to be acknowledged and, in turn, respected.

From Chad:

I’ve been an introvert trying to come off as an extrovert for most of my life. Perhaps this is the source of my internal conflict. Even in the company of my closest friends, sometimes my own head is a more comfortable place to be. Mine, too, can be a bad neighborhood at times. After all, it’s where the selfish and resentful things are. But it’s also where I find most of my inspiration. Like Luke seeking Vader in the dark corners of his mind, I face the demons, learn and emerge stronger in my resolve. As a creative, this is invaluable. Nothing, for me, is scarier than the blank canvas. And no amount of socializing will paint the picture. I have to go “upstairs”. Alone. Shut the door and create.

I can relate, Chad, especially with your last sentence: “I have to go upstairs. Alone. Shut the door and create.”

For years now the talk in our business has been about integration, unification and collaboration. Brought about by new media, we (not just ad people, all people) are connected in ways before unimaginable. Naturally, it was required the creative process follow suit. And so we are. Working in confluence with others, adding digital and new media specialists into our midst, building off each others ideas; these are becoming standard practices at agencies all over the world. At the Hyper Island Master Class (digital training for advertising professionals), we are told that even the writer/art-director dyad is obsolete. Two people are no longer sufficient for creating robust integrated marketing concepts. Hmmm.

These changes are almost certainly for the better but there is a wrinkle: the creative process is, and in certain respects always will be, a solitary one. Individuals conceive the vast majority of all artwork, be it books, paintings, essays, poetry, sculpture, plays, etc. Obviously, producing music, films and other forms requires collaboration but chances are the essence of the product belongs to one creator. And chances are that person was or is an introvert.

Introverted or extroverted, creating concepts has a deeply personal component that cannot be ignored. Even traditional teams worked apart and then “presented” ideas to their partner. As a copywriter I value privacy to “shut the door and create.” As a creative director I must respect the same desires from all who work for me.

One of my favorite pieces of Leo Burnett lore is the famous ad man’s salute to the “lonely man…the man at his typewriter or his drawing board or behind his camera or just scribbling notes with one of our big black pencils – or working all night on a media plan.” Darn near admonishing his troops, Leo tells them if and when “you lose your respect for the lonely man…THAT, boys and girls, is when I shall insist you take my name off the door.” ‘Nuff said.

For those interested, here is the transcript of Mr. Burnett’s speech, from 1967.


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