I was sweating, profusely. I thought that the day had come where I would succumb to the road and become a feast for carrion. Did I overestimate my abilities? Did I finally have to make peace with the fact that my preparation wasn’t sufficient? My knees were weak, palms were sweaty and you know the rest. There I was, amidst twenty thousand other people, and I felt lost. Due to the glory of Outkast’s Hey Ya playing next to the road, free Coca-Cola being handed out, and a most probable Divine touch, I just made it past the finish line.
After scarfing copious amounts of Romany Creams and soothing my body with Deep Heat, I couldn’t let go of how narrowly I earned my medal, or how I sufficiently made the grade. How do I go beyond good, to being great? Consistency. Consistency is the only way.
I need to pull ideas from somewhere; it’s part of what I do. Sometimes the well is dry, but if I know where the source of water is, I can go there and get nourished. To be creatively fit you have to be agile enough to assess the situation, rethink, reformat, restructure and relay the information or ideas in a logical way. The path to being creatively fit is built on the same principle which applies to athletes: consistency.
If you don’t consistently engage with the blueprints of other creative minds, analysing how things are made, where mistakes are made (and what you would have done better), what they did better than you and how they did it better, you will always be on the back foot.
To think of a good pay-off line for a campaign you might pull from a beautifully constructed sentence in Lord of the Flies, or it may come from Monet’s Jazz-period artwork. It could be an article in The Economist which prepares you for an unexpected question from a client, because you know what the government’s current stance on mining is. You build an arsenal of ideas forged from consistently immersing yourself in visual languages, thought processes, meaningful or disruptive narratives, and the abandon of exposing yourself through your own ideas, whether you succeed or fail. And, now we talk about those two critical spaces to find yourself in.
Because humans have survivalism built into us, we adapt. We can adapt almost instantly if the situation calls for it. We strengthen this sense of survivalism by having our arsenal ready. Whether you are an athlete pulling from muscle memory or a creative pulling from creative memory, we instinctively know how to be malleable. If we fail, we can pick ourselves up, we know how to convert the supposed failure and translate it into a tool which could add to our future success. The same applies to success. If we see what worked and what didn’t, we apply that in future (without, hopefully, becoming too formulaic). We have survivalism and instinct on our side, but how do we go from being a survivor to being a creative master? Purely by staying creatively fit. You won’t have to worry about creative blocks/droughts/malnutrition if you read/write/watch/experience/analyse. It’s that simple.
There I was on the road. I had the right New Balance shoes, my anti-sweat, gel-pocket running shirt, and aerodynamic, cooling shorts on, with Katy Perry’s Roar in the background. I almost didn’t make it. Now I go to gym three to four times a week to prepare myself if I ever do a marathon again.
I’m sitting in front of my Mac. I have Typo, Moleskine and Riba notebooks lying next to me, filled with words and scribbles and ideas. There is a cup of coffee staining my desk and I’m listening to the BØRNS album on full blast through my earphones. There is a plant and a bunch of toys in front of me. I need to come up with an idea for a beer brand. The deadline is incredibly [de]pressing. The collective concern about the impending project is weighing down on the team. But I’m not afraid. I have my arsenal ready. And it’s not on my desk, in front of me or in my hands. It’s all in my head.