Good Advertising Requires Constant Creative Conditioning

Don't Let Your Artistic Skills -- or Your Passion -- Atrophy

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
I recently started painting again. It happened one Saturday. I was vegging out on the couch flipping channels until I happened upon one of those shows that teach you how to paint. I wasn't as much interested as needing to rest my thumb, so I watched how to paint a seascape. The result was hideous -- badly executed and unimaginative. "I could teach painting better than that," I thought. But the truth was, my painting supplies had been tucked away in a corner gathering dust. Another more depressing thought occurred to me. What if I couldn't paint any better than that? What if I had lost it? I went upstairs, dug out my easel, paints and canvas, and got started.

I'll be honest, that first brush stroke was a bit hesitant, but I was soon back to my college days when the joy of creating made nothing else in the world matter. I contemplated how easily that joy was obtained. Why had I been denying myself?

In my opinion, creating an ad should bring about the same feeling of joy as painting a picture. If we discover that joy, our thinking is fresher and the resulting work better. If we let our passion for making an ad sit in the corner, gathering dust, we will become more and more afraid to let ideas flow. We will become afraid of our true ability. We will begin to play it safe, mimicking previous efforts. We will omit our individuality in our work.

Sure, the little boxes we're given to work within make unique expression a tall order, but that small box also creates an opportunity. Think about it. Few people are actually paid to create. Doing so for a living should be seen as a gift. It is the gift of freedom. We are allowed to savor each moment of expressing ourselves through our work.

Perspective is a key component of keeping one's passion in use. A chore viewed as an opportunity will be more likely to produce brilliance. I've seen chores turned into award-winning work. One particular example I remember was a job cast off by a senior creative who felt it was beneath his ability. The young creative who eagerly worked on the opportunity won a nationally coveted award for his effort.

Why did you get into this business? I know people in creative, media and account management who said it was to do great work. It wasn't to make a paycheck. That's something you have to do, but it doesn't mean it has to be painful.

We each face jobs that seem like nothing can be done to save them from mediocrity. The attitude that they are best done with a cursory effort and forgotten is tempting. However, I've seen too many of those kinds of jobs turned into amazing work to make that judgment without a sincere effort.

So the next time you see a job that is the proverbial sow's ear, give it the benefit of the doubt. Dig your joy for creating out of the corner and just enjoy the opportunity. Maybe it will be great or maybe it will be forgettable. Like a painting, the satisfaction can be found simply in the doing. Ironically, that's how most masterpieces are created.
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