5 things I wish I’d known when becoming a creative

WomanI love my job. I really do, but here’s the but. I wish someone had told me a few key things to ease the rocky parts of my creative path…

1. Your babies are killed everyday 

Imagine a child, a child who comes home from school having made something for you. You’re not quite sure what it is, as it just looks like a mass of pipe cleaners, cotton wool and paint. The wide-eyed innocent wonder on their face as they smile at the beauty of what they have created for you with love and care. Now take that pile of shit and crumple it in your giant hand and crush that child’s hopes and dreams.

That is the daily struggle of being a creative in an advertising agency, whether it’s a project manager telling you the budget is a tenner, or your creative director claiming you went so far off brief that you’re risking giving yourself a nosebleed (and you’re an idiot), or lastly the client who is having a bad day. Your precious ideas that you love, just like you love your first-born, are killed. Massacred in front of your eyes. It’s a traumatic experience. But hindsight is a great thing, and your second creative child is always better anyway. Don’t get attached, you needy whinge-bag.

The key is to learn, really listen, and hone your ideas in to sellable, well-crafted stories. Oh, and next time, forget it all and revel in the agony all over again.

2. You need to be a culture sponge

The first few tentative steps we take in beginning to formulate ideas are the most vital. As soon as you put pen to paper it’s like you’re taking a can opener to your brain, and letting it all ooze out: that article you read, the painting you’ve seen, that video, the fact that you had a conversation with a stranger once on a escalator.

Our ideas are only ever as good as the stuff we steal. Not directly, but a sum of parts, tiny bits and pieces constructed together to create a whole. The people who are better at being a creative than you are more likely to go and explore the world, rather than run home at 6pm to watch Hollyoaks and eat pot noodles.

When I say explore, I don’t mean go and flamboyantly ride an elephant in Thailand and have some sort of spiritual awakening, I simply suggest going to a vegan crunk night in Peckham or sitting in a coffee shop and people watching; just do something everyday that is a change from your normal routine. People who do have a bigger pool of knowledge to draw on, meaning their ideas are going to be a lot more insightful that your naff vending machine rehash.

3. Everybody is better than you 

This isn’t a negative statement. As the saying goes” ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room’. This is true, and yes it is incredibly frustrating. But that’s how it should be; you should be striving to do better, and constantly needing to improve. When that thirst goes and you utter the word, “that’ll do” you may as well give yourself a lobotomy with the nearest marker pen and start a T-shirt business with all the other bitter failed creatives.

By nature, creatives have a bit of an ego, it’s hard to take that someone may come up with a better idea than you, and it is hard to swallow that someone can say one word and to turn your scribbled coffee stained scrap of paper into an award winner.

Every person that builds up the delicate ecosystem of an agency holds a plethora of different talents that you will never possess, and that is OK. They’re all (well they should be) on your side. And their talent only makes you stronger.

4. You will make a fool of yourself 

Humiliation is a daily occurrence. I’m not talking fetish. There are going to be a few times in your life where you have no faith in what you’re saying and even you know that the work is not on brief, over-budget or just absolute trash. Yet, you have to stand there and sell it like a ballsy market trader trying to get rid of his last few mouldy cabbages. These are steep learning curves. It is only after your face has turned beetroot approximately 73 times do you realise that there is no point trying to bluff your way through. The key is to always be confident in your work, otherwise people will see straight through you. Then you’ll not give one iota if you have to sell your banner ad idea through interpretive dance. Embrace embarrassment, it’ll make you stronger.

5. Mind blanks

A fresh page of a layout pad is the scariest. It instils fear in the bravest of creatives. You’ve been briefed, you totally get the brief, you’re on it, you totally get it, you 100% understand what you have to do and how to solve this problem. You then go and cry in the toilets as you have no fucking idea what you’re doing and you’ve blagged your way in to your job and you’re a phony liar. Stop there. Everybody has days like this.

Chances are, you’re not crap at your job, it’s just a bad day. So don’t bury your head, ask questions. Go and speak to people, ask for advice. People respect you for asking when you don’t understand. If you don’t understand, they probably haven’t done their job correctly and you’re right to get this out in the open instead of 2am the day before a pitch.

Keep going. Don’t stress. You’re doing fine.

Loren Cook is a creative at Fullsix London