In advertising agencies, creatives are superheroes, and like any hero, we all have our weakness. Let’s assume as creatives, we play the role of “Superman”. What’s the one thing that stops Superman dead in his tracks? Kryptonite. Some days we’re unstoppable. However, at times, when we’re busy saving the day creating compelling content for our clients, we hit a wall. We might be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but when we encounter a creative block, it can feel like we’ve been defeated. Regardless of how bad things get, it’s our job to create.
Creative blocks are inevitable in this industry; it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”. When you find yourself in this situation, it’s imperative that you have a plan to break out of it. Some jobs just stump us, and that’s okay. If you’re prepared for this situation, you will find that you’ll get stuck less often and produce stronger work. The following are the steps I use to fight back and stay on track:
1. Reference Other Creative Work + Seek Inspiration
Despite the Superman metaphor, we don’t actually possess superhuman powers, no matter how badly we’d like to think we do. In such a congested industry, it’s hard to find that killer new idea. Sometimes our work just lacks inspiration, and when this happens, it’s our job as creatives to find it. Recently, I’ve stumbled upon a blog by Will Hoekenga (http://goinswriter.com/copywriting/) titled, “4 Copywriting Techniques Every Good Storyteller Already Knows”. In his blog post, Hoekenga mentions to keep a “swipe file,” that he defines as a “collection of thoughts, ideas, useful information, and the things you like”. By referencing other creatives’ work, you expose yourself to different styles of writing and design. This can help inspire new avenues of thinking that you haven’t previously considered. Inspiration can come in many forms, but if we aren’t open to looking for it, we risk falling into an infinite loop of complacency.
2. Step Back + Take a Different Perspective
After working on a specific account for so long, it’s easy to get caught up in the routine. While it’s important that you focus your work and remain on-message, sometimes you have to remind yourself what makes your client special. Take a step back and look at your work from a different perspective. Is the existing design and copy a good representation of their brand? How can you make it better? How can you improve your messaging to better reach their target audience? What sets their brand apart from everyone else? Breaking out of a creative block sometimes can be as simple as looking at the job from a different angle.
3. Think About It + Forget It
In a world dictated by hard deadlines, this can be a totally foreign concept to some of us. Provided the job isn’t due by the end of the day, put it on the back burner and let it simmer. Don Draper, the creative director of Sterling Cooper from the television series, “Mad Men” said it best: “Just think about it deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face”. Kick the one-track mind, and stop dwelling on an idea for too long. The moment you become fixated on it, is the moment you need to get away from it.
Creativity is hardly a science. There’s no specific formula to follow that will yield perfect results each time. It’s an ongoing process that demands respect and patience. Unfortunately, creative ruts are part of that process. Follow these steps and you’ll be better prepared to face them when they rear their ugly heads. Keep fighting and you’ll defeat your creative villains, so you can get back to your heroics, Superman.