Free your creatives from their shackles.

For there is no fresh thinking in a stale environment.

You know that guy that leans over and says ‘Working a half day are we?’ when someone leaves at 6PM?

Fuck that guy.

One of the rare positives from the COVID apocalypse is the rattling of our collective cages around how we work. Some might call it work/life balance, and there is an element of that, but for me, and I would say for commercial creativity at large, it’s perhaps more about having the freedom to work the way that works for us.

I’ve been in and out a lot of different agencies, I’ve been part of running an agency, I’ve always got side projects on the go, I’ve spent time in the music industry, writing, recording, performing, I’ve spent time sketching and painting ‘street art’ (I’ll call it that for legal purposes), and I can tell you this - no matter what your creative pursuit or outlet, environmental shifts and altered states of being are integral to the creative process.

This is my opinion, I acknowledge it’s subjective, and I’m sure there will be some out there that disagree, but if your style of leadership is forcing creatives to spend their lives bolted to a desk in an open plan office, then you don’t get it. I don’t care what lumps of metal are on the shelf behind you. You still don’t get it. Because even if that worked for you, it won’t for many, and I’d say most, others.

This isn’t about drive, or ambition, or hunger, or even ‘hours’, that’s a seperate issue. Every great creative I’ve come across has next to no off switch. They’re relentless. They can’t even really control it. They absorb behaviours from people at the supermarket. They remember dialogue from books. Store art direction, lighting and colour palettes from films. Sleep with a pen and pad by the bed. Have a notes app with 439 random sentences on it. Their entire way of being is forever curious and open to possibility.

They are a well of inspiration, but only if allowed to fill it.

“Sorry it took so long, but you know, life happened.” - Adele (in response to criticism on time taken between albums)

Greatness requires inspiration, and inspiration draws from experience. And given corporate offices are just about the most uninspiring environments ever designed, there you won’t always find it.

Go for a walk. Go to the beach. Get some sunlight. Work outside for a while. Work somewhere quiet. Work somewhere noisy. Changing your environment and your mind-state can jolt an idea loose when you’re not even trying to think of one.

For these reasons, I laughed reading author David Thorne’s bio for the first time:

David Thorne is an Australian humourist, satirist, and New York Times bestselling author. His work has been featured on Have I got News For You, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

He has worked as a graphic designer, copywriter, branding consultant and creative director, and describes working in the design industry as the most uncreative experience of his life.

We do incredibly creative things with brilliantly creative people, but the day-to-day experience is often not conducive to that creativity. So we have to do what we can to change that.

Often, once the kids and wife are in bed, if I’ve got something I haven’t cracked it becomes a ‘bath job’. I’ll run a hot bath, take my nightly THC oil, maybe pour a drink, maybe not, possibly meditate for a short while, and then just sink in there with a pen and pad. The house is totally quiet, I’m relaxed, I’m in a different headspace, and different thoughts and feelings and ideas will begin to surface. I’ve done a day’s work in an hour on many a ‘bath job’ over the years.

I’m not telling everyone to go and get high in the bath, but it’s well worth incorporating different experiences, environments, and frames of mind into your process. Don’t just make it about forcing things out, make sure you also let things in.

Otherwise you’re just attacking the problem head on the exact same way, over and over and over again. It’s the Einstein quote on insanity.

I honestly don’t think it a crazy notion to block out a certain amount of time per week or month for creative inspiration. Take the team to a gallery. Go to a gig. Even hang out at the pub and talk shit. Or maybe it’s just a new or different experience. Drive a go-kart. Go abseiling. Give it a job code and bill it. Stimulus sparks creativity. Lord knows it’d be more valuable than half the shit currently filling every big company’s calendar.

It’s true that we need to understand the corporate world, but I don’t think we add as much when consumed by it.

We’re vessels that can channel nothings into somethings, but we have to let things pass through us for those ideas to form.

And those things aren’t timesheets and back-to-back Zooms.

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