“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert
That quote was pasted above the first desk in my first cubicle at my first job 20 years ago for a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t understand that the office furniture was leased and, two, it always reminded me to come into the office ready to work and leave the office ready to recover – even when all I had to look forward to the next day was a 5×5 cubicle on loan from United Rentals.
But what the hell do we do now?
Our lives no longer follow clear patterns. Our cubes and offices have been traded for something much worse – our couches and uncomfortable dining chairs. The regular and orderly home lives we’ve spent so much time constructing unraveled in an instant, and the work lives we spent so long gearing up for unraveled right along with them.
Like many, I spent those first weeks praying for a return to normalcy. But as days stretched to weeks stretched to months, I realized I needed to call in something else to help me. First it was boxes of wine (thanks to our client, Bota Box) but then I looked to the one thing that has guided my career thus far.
Delusion is one of the greatest assets a person can have. (Hear me out on this). It’s creative delusion that makes us think we can win a new business pitch against 20 other agencies. It’s creative delusion that we think our video is going to be the one people see out of the 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s creative delusion that we think all that wine we’ve been drinking since March isn’t going to catch up with us. All of these things make us want to work hard and try hard and drive us to do the seemingly impossible or improbable time and time again.
But while being slightly delusional is a healthy thing for anyone in communications, we all need to recognize that right now we don’t need anything else hindering our lives. To that end, here are five creative delusions I have recognized that get in the way of creating great work.
1. We don’t have time for a brief. After nothing happened in our industry for weeks, every client hit the accelerator and jammed it into fourth gear all at once. The reaction was to meet them in 4th My suggestion? Apply the brakes. Stop. Think. And then stop again and think some more. In our race to be helpful we forget that real help is solving the problem, not being the first to throw out a solution. Einstein said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Let’s all be like Einstein.
2. Aha! I alone have the answer. We’re frustrated when people don’t share our speed or thought process. So we put our head down and deliver an idea to everyone expecting a standing ovation. Don’t fall into this trap. Collaboration is always important but even more so right now. It’s good to have disagreements if those disagreements lead to better solutions.
3. You need to be in the meeting (even if you don’t know why you’re invited to the meeting). We’ve always had too many meetings yet, incredibly, we have figured out a way to squeeze even more of them into a day. No one has ever finished a long day and wished there was more time in the day for meetings. We all want the same thing – more time to work. Here’s my advice –if you are the one scheduling the meeting, make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear. And if you’re an attendee who doesn’t know what the meeting is for, skip it.
4. I can’t leave my house/desk/etc. When I hit a creative block before, I could walk out of my office and play a game of chess, talk to a friend or eat an embarrassing amount of licorice from the snack closet. We don’t have that now. Steve Jobs designed the Apple campus with bathrooms in the middle to encourage people to bump into one another, to have casual conversations and to promote creativity. David Ratcliffe from Google called these “Casual Collisions” – the inadvertent meetings that lead to new ideas and solutions. So block out 30 minutes a day to do something different – go for a walk, talk to the guy at the coffee shop, yell at cars.
5. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Let’s say you wanted to title your blog post “the five creative delusions” but only could think of four. That’s okay. Stop being so hard on yourself. And while you’re at it, pour another glass of wine (thanks, Bota Box).
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