How kitchen roll taught me that creativity can be simple

Some 20 years ago, my first school was one of many schools that were entered into a competition.

It was run by one of the big kitchen roll companies – I can’t recall which one. 

Basically they wanted us to do a special design for some limited edition packaging.

Yep, instead of using a design firm they decided to skip costs and get eager kids to do it…

Being a creative nipper I was excited by this. But, back then, creativity to me meant that you had to try and be as far outside of the box as possible.

I didn’t think practically or subtly. And so my design looked like it had been put together by Andy Warhol after an acid flashback.

In terms of the client brief and brand it didn’t fit.

And, of course, I didn’t win.

But my best friend did. He had come up with a fairly simplistic (yet polished) design and they lapped it up.

I jealously watched as he won a shedload of plaudits and even nailed a newspaper interview.

Nowadays he channels that skill as a design engineer.

And, after learning a lot, I eventually got a break as a copywriter.

There’s a lesson here for us all. Creativity is about connecting things and sticking true to what your client or your audience will respond to and want.

There’s no such thing as simple. Not really, anyway. It’s just about having a good idea. Whether that idea is plain and conservative, or rainbow coloured – it’s about what fits.

That’s what creativity is. It can be simple. It just needs to fit the purpose.

(Photo credit: Daily Express)

Genghis Khan on creative leadership….

There are thousands upon thousands of articles out there on leadership. All full of ‘important’ yet often conflicting information.

But one thing that most of them agree on is that, to make it in business, you need have a ruthless streak.

There are leaders like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.

And then there are leaders like Genghis Khan. If you’ve not heard of him, then you must have skipped history at school.

He lived from 1162 to 1227 (which was old for those times) and is most notably known for being the founder of the Mongol empire. He was a ferocious, fearless leader who wasn’t afraid to massacre whole tribes to get where he wanted.

genghis

Sure, not exactly a nice guy…but damned successful at getting what he wanted.

As an aside – I always find it interesting that, even though he’s one of the biggest historical figures ever, there’s no official record of what he looked like. Some reports say he was tall and thin, some say short and stout…while others claim that he was (unusually for the Mongol empire) a ginger chap.

But, as ruthless as he was, Genghis Khan had an eye for talent. Which is something any leader…creative or otherwise…should have. And, he was reasonable enough to put this eye for talent ahead of his own personal feelings.

Let me tell you a story that highlights this well…

It was 1201 and Genghis was embroiled in a battle with the nearby Taijut tribe. It was a bloody, nasty business and he was lucky to win.

As the best leaders do Genghis led by example and rode into battle along with his troops and lieutenants.

He was a skilled warrior, but in this particular battle he nearly fucked up.

An arrow slammed into his horse and he was thrown off, he hit the ground and narrowly missed being slayed by the Taijut.

As Genghis Khan’s fortune would have it the Mongol tribe won.

Genghis_Khan_and_three_of_his_four_sons

He was furious that he’d come so close to death, and afterwards he addressed the Taijut prisoners and asked them who it was who fired the offending the arrow. Of course, as he did so, he didn’t expect for a minute that the culprit would come forward.

But he did.

A Taijut archer stepped forward and claimed responsibility.

Khan’s initial reaction was to kill the man where he stood. But then, he thought better of it. It was an incredible shot to hit his horse from such a distance…the archer must have been talented.

So, stirred by the archer’s boldness and in awe of his talent, Genghis Khan offered him a job.

He went on to become one of the Mongol’s most esteemed field commanders.

So there we have it. A lesson from history. Don’t let personal feelings get in the way of admiring and recruiting talent. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you at first, doesn’t mean that you can’t reach them eventually.

…don’t you just love loose metaphors?

As a side-note, Genghis Khan created one of the world’s first ever postal systems – so he was definitely more than just a barbarian!

Calvin Harris

The trouble with making music as a job is that I have no outside interests. All I can do to wind down is go to sleep.” – Calvin Harris

He makes a good point.

For many people who aren’t creatives in their day job, their creative discipline is usually just a hobby or a side-job.

Often they do it because it’s very therapeutic.

And it begs the question…how would you manage your down time if your hobby becomes your day job?

I guess for some of us that’s the dream…

Of Sherlock, Larsson & Terry Pratchett.

I read this article from ‘The Verge’ today, and it made me think about the legacies that creatives leave behind them.

I’m sure you’ll have heard of Terry Pratchett – one of the most celebrated authors of our generation. Sadly, he died in 2015, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s – over the years he sold 85 million books worldwide, and they were translated into 37 different languages.

Quite the legacy.

The other legacy that Pratchett left behind was ten unpublished/unfinished novels that were stored on his hard drive.

So, what did he want done with these books? Did he want them published? Did he want someone to ghost-write them and finish them for him?

Nope. He asked for the hard drive to be destroyed by Lord Jericho.

Lord Jericho being a vintage steam roller.

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And so away went Pratchett’s unfinished legacy, never to grace his worldwide readership. Meaning that no editors or ghostwriters would be able to change his work after his death.

Which, for him, was the perfect outcome.

However, not every creative is so lucky. Take for example, Steig Larsson.

Larsson burst onto the scene in the early noughties. His ‘Millenium’ trilogy became a worldwide sensation – and, if you haven’t read the three books, I firmly implore you to give them a go.

Sadly, Larsson died of a sudden heart attack in 2004. At that time his three novels were sat on his computer – unpublished. In 2005 the first one was released.

But, Larsson would never know that. Which I find realy sad. He was an activist and a journalist by trade, and had often hinted to colleagues and friends that he was writing some novels that would be his ‘retirement fund’.

What’s worse is that Larsson’s sudden death caused problems with his estate  and where the royalties and copyright should go. Whether it should go to his reportedly ‘estranged’ family  or to his partner, Eva – the debate still rages on now – over ten years later.

Since then a couple of other books have been released in the series, written by a completely different writer – and done so without the blessings of Larsson’s partner.

sherlock

And, you have to wonder, how would he feel about this? Should a writer’s work go with the writer, or should it stay?

I wonder what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would think of the ‘Sherlock’ TV series, and who knows what HP Lovecraft would think of the many films and novels that his stories spawned.

It’s nice to be beside the seaside…

Today I didn’t write because I went to the seaside.

There’s something in the saying “oh I do like to be beside the seaside”.

There’s something about the air and the sun as it twinkles off the water. 

A cleansing, blow-out-the-cobwebs experience.

It made me feel creative.
 I know us artists and writers can often be indoor types but crisp, clean and fresh air should never be discounted as a remedy for the creative block.