A Valuable Lesson in Creativity, Courtesy of My 3-Year-Old


Following a snowfall of eight inches last week, my daughter and I were snowed in, much to my chagrin, as I had a looming deadline for one of my weekly articles. I popped in her favorite DVD and then settled down at my computer to write. No sooner had panic-induced writer’s block settled in, then my daughter started tugging at my pant leg. “Play with me,” she pleaded. “Not right now, honey. Mommy’s trying to write,” I responded. Resolutely, she straightened up, planted her hands on her tiny hips, and demanded, “well, STOP!”

She was absolutely right. There I was – racking my brain, not feeling especially inspired, but trying to come up with a witty article on the perfect topic, which I had not yet been able to define. I was trying to force creativity, which, as we all know, is the kiss of death in any creative endeavor.

So why do we do it? Surely, panic plays a major role in forced creativity – missing a deadline or failing to perform at a certain level for the client can, and often does, result in lost revenue and/or jobs. Plus, anyone with the slightest ounce of competitive spirit wants to land the account and win awards – all in the same day.

Here’s the thing – you’re not going to hit it out of the park every time. Don’t believe me? I offer up the following case study: Crispin Porter + Bogusky was hired to come up with a campaign to rival the much-beloved “I’m a Mac” ads. The resulting product was a series of awkward commercials, featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, which were quickly pulled not long after the first spot aired.

The lesson learned from this particular example? Keep trying until you get it right. After this spot aired, CP&B replaced it with the ubiquitous “I’m a PC” commercial, proving that perseverance pays off.

Also keep in mind that your work should be more than merely pretty. It needs to be meaningful – to your client, your client’s brand, and to your client’s customers. Take the time to figure out what the “big idea” is and go from there. Creativity tends to flow when some kind of direction is provided and the creative staff is allowed to do what they do best.

Forget about spoofing the latest trend. The best creative work doesn’t mirror pop culture – it creates it. How many times have we seen a piece of work that was so laden with gimmicks that it instantly became dated? Challenge yourself to create something unique, rather than borrowing from existing material.

Finally, and most importantly, trust yourself, as well as whatever creative process works for you. The ideas will come to you, provided you “do your homework” and don’t try to “force it.” But should you find yourself trying too hard, do what my daughter says to do – STOP.

One thought on “A Valuable Lesson in Creativity, Courtesy of My 3-Year-Old

  1. Renee says:

    Oh Sara. She’s so beautiful. It is truely amazing how they inspire us and get us to look at ourselves in ways we never thought. I learn something from my children everyday. I’ve been writing the spiritual lessons down and the funny things they say. Maybe I’ll write a book one day. You inspire me. Keep it up.

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