Five things I've learned

“My experiences have taught me a lot and I'm happy with my learnings, if not with what I went through to learn.” I couldn’t have put it better myself and thanks to Ally Sheedy (actress, one of the stars of The Breakfast Club among other things, great movie by the way), I don’t even have to try. So what have my experiences taught me thus far? I’ll get straight to it …

1) Don’t be precious about your work

There is good work and there is bad work, but what makes the good stuff great can be subjective. Being precious about your work, no matter how much of your time you invested in it, is the rocky road to emotional and mental ruin. Learning to take criticism on board and act upon it pays dividends in the long run, however hard it might be to take at the time. A project unravelling because you ignored someone else’s input is a lesson learned the hard way. (Tweet this)


2) Genius is not internal, it’s external

During one of her TED talks, author Elizabeth Gilbert acknowledged the ‘external genius’ by way of an anecdote from musician Tom Waits. Upon finding genius troubling him at precisely the wrong time with the makings of a melody, Tom addressed it directly out loud:

‘Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother Leonard Cohen.’ 

Steven Camley, political cartoonist for The Herald in Glasgow submits about five roughs a day, from which the subject for the final cartoon is chosen. “Some days it’s difficult”, he admits. “On others, a story comes in and it’s like a gift from the gods...”

Creativity isn’t a 24 hours a day on-demand service. Great work often comes from perseverance, chipping away at the block until it takes shape into something special. It’s incredibly difficult on any random, miserably wet Tuesday morning to flick a switch and somehow be at your creative peak. The important thing is to keep at it, even on those more challenging days. (Tweet this)


3) If you have an idea, let it out.

A seemingly crap idea is still an idea. The creative process is all about fleshing out ideas. Only when you have explored an idea, even if only in conversation, can you really tell what it’s worth. On the other hand, what seemed like a great idea can soon turn out not to be. Trust your gut feeling but don’t be afraid throw the idea out there and see what your colleagues make of it. Sometimes just sounding off your crap idea can spark the great idea you’re looking for. That’s what brainstorming is all about. (Tweet this)


4) Take nothing for granted

“Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups” said Marcus Penn (Everett McGill) sagely in Under Siege 2. Okay, The Breakfast Club it ain’t, but what a great quote from a turkey of a film. It’s always worth getting someone else to pass an eye over your work – a fresh pair of eyes goes a long way in spotting anything out of the ordinary and could save you from red faces later on.  Never assume anything. (Tweet this)


5) Relationships are everything

Good working relationships are mandatory in any job, even simply from the point of view of personal well-being. Don’t build fences around yourself and be nice to absolutely everyone because great ideas and fantastic leads can occasionally come from the most unlikely of interactions. That said, it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to get on like a house on fire all of the time, clearly some people can be difficult to work with no matter what. If you can’t simply ignore the grumps, the poo-pooers and the downright misery-guts, then the best advice I can give is to look for another job where you can fit in more comfortably. Being creative in a bubble isn’t sustainable for us mere mortals, a great deal of creativity can be borne out of the working environment, particularly in learning from your peers. (Tweet this)