We're drifting apart – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

We’re Drifting Apart (handling life in the creative department Part 2)

Are you a Copywriter or Art Director working in a two-person creative team?

You know the quote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?”

If you’ve been beavering away as a team for more than the honeymoon period, you’ll know why it goes on to say:

“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Makes you wonder if Charles Dickens was an adman.

Being in a creative team can be like waltzing on rose-scented marshmallow clouds. Ideas, banter and giggles. Riding the crest of a big fat sexy creative wave, winning awards, rising through the ranks; you and your mucker against the world.

Then again, it can be a bloody war of attrition.

We're drifting apart 2 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

How to survive in a creative team

I’ve worked with a dozen creative partners over the years.

Before I go any further, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for some magical moments and also to apologise for any episodes, tantrums or AWOLs that I may have subjected you to along the way.

Without you, I wouldn’t be half the creative Herbert that stands before you now, so here’s to you, Ladies and Gents.

A recipe for success

When the planets align, the synergy of Art Director and Copywriter working together in harmony is a joy to behold.

We're drifting apart 3 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Now, this beautiful relationship can go one of two ways:

1) The creative work flows and the boss loves you. Your production rate goes up, you’re given the best briefs and the portfolio just keeps getting better.

2) You’re the star team and everyone wants to hang out with you. You’re having a right laugh. It’s all 8-hour lunches and sleeping under the desk. What deadline? One more for the road? Ay-I-reallyreally-luv-you-yermybezfreninth’world-fanzee-a-kebab?

It’s great to be mates. But, if the work isn’t being done, the cracks will eventually show. When you get to the end of the year and you realise that you’ve done nothing portfolio-worthy, and half of your salary went on fine wine and pork scratchings, you know trouble will be poking its snotty nose around the next corner.

A recipe for disaster

Creative teams can be thrown together in all manner of ways. You meet at college, through a headhunter, online at singlecreatives.com or you get hired and the CD shoves you in a cell with a stranger that you’re going to have to learn to get along with.

We're drifting apart 4 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Here are the signs that it may not work out the way you’d both hoped.

1) One of you is in 2 hours before the other every day, trying to make up for lost time.

2) You won’t share ideas until they’re almost fully formed.

3) You enjoy the days that your partner is off more than the days they are in.

4) You never do anything socially together, not even popping out for a coffee.

5) They close their laptop and look guilty every time you walk into the office.

6) You have their picture on a dartboard at home.

How can you rekindle the magic?

If you work with someone 5 days a week, you spend more time with them than your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse…

Like diving buddies or Arctic explorers, you rely on each other for your survival.

And like an old married couple that stare into space at the dinner table, sometimes you need to spice things up.

1) Get out of the office to walk and talk to each other.

2) Get out of the office to chat ideas over a cuppa or a pint.

3) If you’re not getting the best briefs, nick them or make up your own and come up with something for the book that gets you excited.

4) Be honest with each other. If they’re driving you mad, get it out in the open (don’t forget to tell them why you love them too).

5) Do something together that takes you out of your comfy jumper zone: white water rafting, karaoke, pottery classes, whatever makes you feel slightly uneasy, but in a nice way.

What do you do if the magic’s completely fizzled out?

If you’ve stopped learning from each other, if it’s getting progressively more difficult to tease decent work out, or if you want to smashtheirflippinfaceineverytimetheyopentheirstupidmouth; it’s time for action.

We're drifting apart 5 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Stick two creative egos in a room together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for two years and the oddest things can happen.

I worked with a creative partner who went completely off the rails. One minute they were their usual lovable selves, the next they were tearing up my layouts because they were convinced they could see the devil in them.

I tried to cope with it for a few weeks, but in the end I had to talk to the Creative Director.

Cut a long story short, we were split up and teamed with different Art Directors and Copywriters from the same department. My new partner was a genius and we had a fantastic time until mass redundancies hit (see my previous post ‘Problem Schmoblem‘).

Last thing I heard, my previous creative partner found his niche in fine art and the guy he ended up with went on to do great work at some of the best agencies in town.

If you’re in an unhappy, destructive or non-productive creative team; move on as soon as you possibly can. Life and your career are far too short to plod along miserably with a Copywriter or Art Director who’s the wrong fit.

And if you do find the Yin to your Yang, play nicely together. You’re career may depend on it.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design

8765 days (excluding weekends) in advertising and design

Philosophical types might say that there’s nothing we need to learn. We are born with a thousand lifetimes-worth of knowledge already within us.

If that’s the case, then it’s not what you know, it’s knowing what you know that counts.

At the start of last year I had the golden opportunity to step off the creative treadmill for a couple of months. Even though I didn’t realise it at the time, this gave me the chance to reflect on where I was, how I’d got there and what was really important to me.

Some of these discoveries are probably unique to my set of circumstances. I have, however, collated some thoughts here that I think will apply to any creative person at some stage of their career. For anyone in advertising and design, if you’re in the creative department, you probably know all of this already, but perhaps you don’t know that you know it.

Work attitude:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design1

• If you’re not having fun at work, there’s something wrong (and it may be you).

• Love what you do, it will show in your work. Have a look at Paul Belford, Mark Denton or Chris Haughton – for me, the love for what they’re doing shines through.

• Grow in creativity, diplomacy, humility and playfulness, but not necessarily in that order.

• Your client is NOT the enemy. They pay the bills and they have outside pressures that you don’t know about. If they’re not buying the work they ought to, talk it through, defend your ideas – but if they say “No” for the third or fourth time, it’s probably time to put forward some new ideas.

• A lot of creatives are easily distracted and inherently lazy. If you fall into this category, make a list to prioritise your working day. Do the really important jobs first, break up the mundane tasks with the fun stuff and tick things off as you go. Try online tools like toodledo, evernote, toggl or scoro – personally I prefer an oldschool written list.

• Stay curious.

Getting over yourself:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design2

• Remember, you don’t know it all yet – and you never will.

• There’s an art to it, but it’s not art.

• It really is tomorrow’s bin fodder, let go.

• Wingeing won’t make you a better creative.

• Most creative people have an overinflated opinion of themselves, that includes me.

• You make plans, they fail. You do great work, it gets rejected. You think you’re alone, you’re not. Welcome to the creative department.

Doing great advertising and design work:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design3

• When it comes to the brief, the wise man sometimes has to ask stupid questions.

• Concentrate on ideas, not trends.

• Your portfolio is your best friend, feed it regularly. If you’re not getting the briefs you need, then make up your own side projects.

• Think of a sector or brand you’d love to work on. Now imagine working on it 5 days a week for the next 10 years. Pigeonholes are for pigeons, not creatives.

• Sleep with a pad by the bed, but conversely…

• Find ways to switch your brain off, it’s good for the soul as well as for your creativity.

• Listen to other people’s opinions, they can see things you can’t.

• The worst place for coming up with creative ideas is usually sat at a computer.

• When you get stuck on a brief, have a break. Bashing your head against a brick wall will only give you a bigger headache.

Life in general:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design4

• Don’t put work before health.

• You probably aren’t going to get rich, but even if you do, you’ll only go and spend it.

• If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it / publish it / eat it.

• Treat people with respect.

• Say “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” when the moment calls for it.

• Everyone will have a different opinion (especially about this sort of stuff). Ultimately, you will have to make your own decision on which path to take.

If you’ve learnt something in your advertising and design career that you’d like to share, please tweet me using the hashtag #creativewisdom

Here’s some other stuff I learnt in 2017.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk