Inspiration is not your friend.

The creative presentation is Thursday and it’s already Tuesday night. I have no ideas, or at least no ideas worth sharing with another human being. Yes, I have a few scribbles on a piece of paper. Half-baked ideas, ideas that have nothing to do with the client’s problem, ideas that are all style, no substance.

When you get stuck (and you will) the worst thing you can do is stare at a blank piece of paper and wait for inspiration. You are not the boss of inspiration. And inspiration is not your friend. It will come and go as it pleases if it shows up at all. And it couldn’t care less about your job security, your deadlines, or your self-esteem. Those are “you” problems.

Every creative person has tricks he or she uses to sneak up on inspiration. This is one of mine.

I have an idea file full of pictures. The pictures have nothing to do with the assignments I’m working on. When I see a picture I like or find interesting, I put it into my idea file.

I have collected hundreds of these images over the years. Most of the images just sit in my idea file unused, mocking me for my lack of talent. But every once in a while, one of these images will help me uncover an idea that I never knew was there.

On the Tuesday night before the Thursday morning presentation, this is a picture from my idea file that I kept going back to.

Stay curious. That’s the tagline of the client we are pitching.

This is the script I wrote.

It’s sunrise in the Florida Everglades. We hear only natural sounds. We see a crane gliding gracefully a few feet above the water. It is quiet, beautiful, serene. Suddenly an alligator leaps out of the water. We see and hear its tail thrashing wildly at it tries to lift its 500 pounds just we few more inches out of the river. Jaws agape, an early brunch is about to be served. The crane lets out a cry. But strangely it’s a cry of triumph.

The small bird latches onto the alligator with its claws. Then, gracefully flapping its wings, the crane rises a few feet and hovers effortlessly over the river. The alligator tries to trash itself free but it’s no use. The crane rises and higher into the air. Then it turns and flies off into the morning sunrise, the huge alligator dangling helplessly in the small bird’s claws. The Everglades are quiet and peaceful again.

Fade up client logo and tagline. Stay curious.

This script and the visual led to a dozen other ideas where the last thing you expected to happen happened.

When the other creative teams presented their ideas on Thursday, I was in awe. Once again, creative thinkers connected the dots in ways that had never been connected before.

As for me? Well, on that day, I did not sell my idea or scripts to the prospective client. But I didn’t embarrass myself either.

In fact, just as I was finishing my presentation, I thought I saw inspiration slipping quietly out a side door. I can’t say for sure, but just before the door closed I think inspirtation gave me the finger.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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