By Steve May, Freelance Writer and Consultant Rockatansky.
Combine The Voice with X-Factor, mix in Masterchef, add Survivor, throw in Dragon’s Den, then Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, then Every Country’s Got Talent, and you’ll have a show about being a creative.
On a daily basis, copywriters and art directors, designers and composers have their hearts broken and dreams poleaxed as their work is either rejected or slowly morphed into highly polished piles of vomit by clients.
Let me preface, this isn’t a client bash-fest.
I don’t believe clients intend to ramshackle creatives by rejecting work or delivering prickly feedback. For one thing, they don’t have time. The advertising and marketing of their business is just a teeny weeny cog in complex schematic. If a client could approve a piece of copy first time, they would, to save time.
Unfortunately, the process of buying creative doesn’t work like this.
Judging work is a difficult and an often protracted process. Of course it is, we’re selling creativity to pragmatists. Those, who more than often lack a creative barometer, yet are empowered to green-light expensive campaigns from a few words and pictures presented on a page.
Some buy work within weeks. Others within years.
Helping to get the idea over the line, you’ve got Creatives’ Little Helpers: data, research and reference.
Then there’s the relationship: trust, track record, and treasured connections.
Yet with all this, work, good work, can still be cactus.
Personally, I prefer an idea killed off early if it’s destined to die. Fast. Bullet to the back of the head. Never knew what hit it. Because it hurts more, way more, to have work killed-off at the 11th hour.
Note I say ‘killed’.
Ideas aren’t ‘manufactured’, we give birth to them. They’re our lightbulbs, our pennies dropped, our precious babies.
Big as the sky. Delicate as sugar glass.
When they’re liked, it’s the most wonderful of endorphin hits. When they’re dismissed, it’s like the client removed one of your testicles. Who the hell would want to be a creative?
But, of course, you don’t become a creative; you just are. Cliched, yes. True, yes. Really, we have no choice. This is our calling.
So how does one live with such highs and lows? As with many species, we learn to adapt to life’s quirks (channeling David Attenborough, here). Creatives, being gluttons for punishment, have developed a unique defence system over many generations. Namely, a thick skin.
Or as I like to call it, our ‘creative callous’.
Over time, and countless rejections, it thickens and toughens, offering fortification. Without it, you’re a dribbling mess, curled up in the shower, rocking back and forth. You’re gone.
Resilience is critical in this game. Makes no difference if you’re writing major campaigns or product descriptions, your creative callous is what protects you from stinging setbacks.
Moreover, it protects you from yourself, for bitterness is easy to fall into and rejection takes its toll if you take it the wrong way.
The more hits you take, the longer you’ll survive.
Here’s to killing us softly.