The Emotional Dilemma


Every creative person has his own special personal problem which involves his emotional adjustment to the facts of advertising life. His ability to face up to that problem is the difference between the pro and the frustrated amateur.

The special problem I mean is this: Unlike most other, perhaps unlike all other practitioners of advertising, the creative man must expose himself to the judgment and criticism of the people who have to say “yes” or “no” to an advertising creation.

In the lonesome caverns of his mind, and in his private viscera, he develops a thing of some kind — an idea, a technique, a phrase, a graphic design, whatever. It strikes him as appropriate to the problem he’s trying to solve — it seems accurate, and sound, and hopefully new and fresh and desirably different.

He may not know quite where it came from, but here he is with a creation. He’s proud of it, and yet a little deferential. He tries to be objective. It’s not good, he knows, simply because it’s his.

Yet he also knows it’s not bad simply because it’s his. But before it can become accepted and invested in, it has to be put on public display before individuals or whole committees of people appointed to judge it.

Now, any creative man with more than a few weeks’ experience manages to work up protective calluses; be tries not to let the problem get him emotionally, and if he’s a pro, he commonly succeeds. But he knows that this is his life—that he’s no better than his next creation, that he’s always on trial, and that his life is in multiple, continuing jeopardy.

I have seen writers start to go downhill when, after their ideas have been shot down in flames, apparently say to themselves,“All right, if that’s the way they want it, that’s the way I’ll do it. That’s apparently what I’m getting paid for. Why should I fight another battle on this idea when I’m probably going to lose in the long run anyway? Why knock myself out for that unappreciative bunch of so-and-sos?”

I knew one very cynical young writer who said after a meeting, “All clients are s.o.b.’s until they prove themselves otherwise.” And I am sure he included committees in this indictment. At least he was gracious enough to give the client another chance.

I recall also a TV writer whose work had just been torn apart by the Creative Review Committee. As he left the room, I heard him mutter, “The score for today — Lions 3, Christians 0.”

I have seen other writers turn pro almost overnight and start sharply uphill. After leaving a meeting with blood on their shirts and after licking their wounds, they apparently indulged in a little honest self-examination. Then they went back to work on their next creations with continued confidence in themselves, hardly able to wait until they could return to the field of battle.

There is no excuse for the writer writing a dull piece of copy or a dull commercial because “That’s how our client is”or “they make us put in all that junk.”

The real pro in this business is the guy who can take the stickiest sort of writing job — like the one where a client almost guides the writer’s fingers — and make it something effective, and at the same time, keep his self-respect as a writer.

That’s what “being creative” means — it means being creative about how you’re creative!

Save me from the writers who want it all their own way! Save me from the crybabies!

Give me a guy who can sit down and figure out a way to satisfy the job in a highly creative and effective way — and satisfy himself emotionally and creatively, too.

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