by Szu H. Lee
Have you ever scratched for inspiration, hit a wall, and then lost all willpower to continue? You’re not the only one.
Mental fogginess and apathy are plaguing creatives in all lines of work, but these counter-productive mental states ― of heightened anxiety and uncertainty ― don’t have to be institutionalised into our routine.
Our clients demand agility.
They want us to build more brand equity with less.
They want more innovation to stand out against the clutter.
…My job as Creative Officer isn’t to prescribe some vision of valhalla that I want, but to draw out the superpowers of my creative team…
The pressure is on; challenge accepted.
I am of the firm belief that by applying lessons from interdisciplinary artists to the world of marketing, we can proactively take control of our mental superpowers and deliberately enjoy creative flow states.
Think of Van Gogh’s Learning System
One of the first things I learned managing a diverse team is that everyone may experience the same anxiety, but each has a unique learning system that snaps him/her out of it.
The trick is to remember that Van Gogh saw natural turbulence in stars where no one else did.
My job as Creative Officer isn’t to prescribe some vision of valhalla that I want, but to draw out the superpowers of my creative team. I’d recognise those superpowers and give them all the space in the world to breathe. And then look for and nurture secondary ‘superpowers’ that they didn’t even know they possessed.
Form Creative Habits Like Twyla Tharp
The hardest thing to manage in this industry is the assault on the senses.
Multiple digital devices going off. Ad hoc problems. Organisational emails. Social media alerts. Add to that a barrage of Covid-19 news.
Amidst that noise, we need to be level-headed perfectionists at our craft, from concept development to mood-boarding to execution of the final deliverables.
Twyla Tharp, award winning choreographer, would underscore the importance of forming creative habits. She’s 78 years old and still working!
I’ve learned to set hard boundaries and to protect time to be with my muse every day. Extending this to my team: scheduling brainstorm sessions, sound boarding ideas at the same time every day, makes our whole bodies more efficient at it.
Pay Attention like Michelangelo
During the lockdown, everyone was so busy taking snapshots of Zoom meetings and posting TikTok dance videos.
To me, if you’re busy getting attention, then you’re not paying attention. Michelangelo would never have seen a statue inside every block of stone ― never carved David ― if he had been posting selfies on Instagram.
We’re living in an age of fragmented attention, and I always remind my colleagues to pay attention.
It’s important to know what audiences are thinking.
To put yourself in their shoes.
To really listen to how branded messages land along the consumer’s journey.
…We’re living in an age of fragmented attention, and I always remind my colleagues to pay attention. It’s important to know what audiences are thinking…
If consumers take the time to post reviews online, we, as creatives who put content out there, must pay attention to what they say.
Learn to keep learning, like Terry Pratchett
Even if we weren’t in an economic recession, we would still need to teach ourselves new things.
We should all be auto-didacts like Terry Pratchett, who’s a genius.
The kaizen spirit of constant learning is something my colleague Hwa Huang and I have always believed in and practiced.
My team and I find repeatedly that learning new skills in one area ups our game in other areas.
Someone who took improv theatre became spectacular at taking ideas and repurposing them into new campaign concepts. Beyond investing in our passions, learning harnesses the curiosity that drives us.
Szu is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Merdeka LHS and Dentsu LHS at Dentsu Aegis Network, the first global marketing services group built for the digital economy. Szu has worked with clients across Malaysia, acting as strategic brand consultant providing creative communications solutions.