Problem? Schmoblem! (handling life in the creative department Part 1)
At the risk of getting a bit deep and philowotsical on you, I’ve come to realise that problems are our friends.
Without problems, we would grind to a halt.
Not that I’d wish great big problems on anyone, but the right problem has a habit of manifesting itself at exactly the right time for the right person.
Let’s take redundancy as a good example of a fairly juicy problem.
Being a member of the creative department in an advertising or design agency is a fairly precarious place to be. The curse of the big account win, followed by the big account loss, leaves us all vulnerable. In a money-saving exercise, even the senior creatives and creative hotshots are at risk.
If you’ve been in advertising or design for 15 years and not been made redundant yet, you’re either some sort of bullet-dodging superhero, so badly paid that it makes no sense in getting rid of you or you’ve always been self-employed.
Redundancy saga 1
Two years into my advertising career, I was called in to the Creative Director’s office and given the bad news. Something about recession, budget cuts, wiffle-waffle and the sound of mashed potato hitting a sponge in an echo chamber with the reverb button set at 11. The Head of Art bought me a bottle of Champagne and told me it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me (while I stared into space).
I spent the next 3 months in a daze, wondering what the hell I would do next. No one was hiring and more and more creatives were being shown the door. The competition was intense.
Then out of the blue, a senior Art Director who’d also been made redundant from the same agency (bless your cotton socks Keith) got me in for a chat with the boss at a big PR Agency in Bloomsbury. They’d been invited to pitch for a project, jointly funded by Harrods and the Spanish Government, to promote a month of Spanish fashion and culture at the world-famous Knightsbridge store.
This was my first foray into freelancing and culminated in three weeks in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada and Toledo), Art Directing press ads and a TV commercial. I was working with a great photographer and commercials director, was on a fab day rate, being paid to see the world, staying in stupidly expensive hotels and hanging out with beautiful models. Crumbs.
Besides the fact that I’d managed to worry myself to the verge of a nervous breakdown after being made redundant, things were pretty good.
Redundancy saga 2
Fast-forward a couple of years, I was working in Soho’s Greek Street with the very lovely John Jessup. An old college friend had introduced us and it was a smashing little agency. I’d enjoyed freelancing, but it was good to be back splashing about in the full-time pool.
Then great news, the agency was going to merge with another bigger, better agency, headed up by some serious creative big-hitters. Exciting times, but they were going to be overstaffed, so it was back into the CD’s office for the “sorry, but…” pep talk.
Now this time I took the news very differently. No blind panic or “nobody loves me” dramas. With a nice little pay-off in my pocket, I picked myself up and waltzed out of the door with every confidence that things would work themselves out.
I disappeared to Kashmir for 6 weeks and forgot all about ad land, came back raring to go and pretty much walked straight into my dream job.
Redundancy Saga 3
A proper, big agency with proper, big accounts. A creative department of 32, two Creative Directors, smack-bang between Soho and Seven Dials… what could possibly go wrong?
Ha! About 3 and a half years in, having survived one mini round of redundancies, a new CEO came in and decided to have a spring clean.
I was out on my ear again and fell back into freelancing. This was to be probably the most creatively consistent and stable patch of my career. 11 years, great work, wonderful people and no one could make me redundant. In your face – the man!
Then one thing led to another and I got back on the PAYE rollercoaster – Creative Director then Agency Partner then full time employee – and jumped back off in 2017.
The point is, on the surface and especially when you’re in the thick of it, redundancy is easily mistaken to be a bad thing. With the wrong mind-set, it brings pain, worry, confusion, fear, anger…
Seen from a different vantage point, every redundancy has added depth to my life experience and strength to my character. It’s opened new doors and shown me new possibilities.
It’s only life (or, it’s all good, especially the bad bits)
Nothing goes too smoothly for long. Life is meant to have ups and downs. We just need to work out how to deal with them.
So if you’re facing redundancy or any other life-changing ‘problem’, know that no matter how bad it may seem; it’s exactly what you need to help you move on to the next chapter.
It may be easier said than done and I’m sure that many will disagree, but for me, the best thing to do with a problem is welcome it in, tickle its tummy and make it your friend.
Oi, what’s your problem?
If you’re facing problems of a creative nature, give Uncle Jonathan a shout and he’ll help you you through it with a new blog post (maybe, no guarantees).