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What does it take to be creative?

4 min read


When I tell people that I am a creative director, a few things pop into their mind, and they usually ask, “So, are you like Don Draper?” To this one, I usually answer that I don’t think so; I think I am way better looking. Or so my mom says.

Then, the big one pops up, “You’re lucky. I am not creative at all. I don’t think I could ever be. Do you?” The answer is, “No, you can’t. Just kidding. Of course you can. Anyone with half a brain can.”

Here’s some advice that I think will help those of you who think of yourselves as non-creative people. That’s right. I’m talking to you, account executives of the world. Or you, the bored receptionist. Or even you, the overconfident junior writer who lacks experience or self-confidence. That’s right, even you.

A curious pair of eyeballs.
Be an observer and try to understand the world around you. Look at things and how they work, or how you would do them differently. This might not give you ideas, but it will train your brain to think about how things come to life. This is the same process for generating ideas. You are simply trying to solve a problem.

Adapt. Don’t give up. And don’t take no for an answer from yourself or others. If you don’t like your thinking or you find that it’s lame-o, keep on going and try to find a weird, impractical answer. At first, you might not succeed. But keep at it. Eventually, you’ll find great solutions to tough problems.

Trot the globe.
See the world. For real. Or at least online. I find that great creative people are usually well-traveled. They go out. If you never get out of Los Alamos, chances are you’re not going to know what Paris looks like at night. Trust me. It’s beautiful and inspiring.

Steal from life.
Being creative is also imitating life. It’s all around you. In the streets, the theater, in the subway, or in the park. What is it that you are seeing or hearing around you that can be used to solve problems in a creative way? It’s all right there. Make links. You’ll see. You’ll be creative in no time.

Be a happy puppy.
Yep that’s right. People have a tendency to think that great art or ideas can only come from troubled souls. That’s a lie. Some of the great creative thinkers I know are happy, positive people. They see life as a springboard to feel good about everything they do. Happiness is key.

Be fearless.
Fear is usually what stops people from coming up with ideas. Don’t be afraid. Jump in and make mistakes. The great thing about ideas is that you can always find better ones. Once you get over the fear and realize that it does not matter what people think, then everything will turn out well. Right here, right now, you have nothing to fear. What’s your next big idea?

Start applying these simple ways to your thinking and I promise you will come up with great ideas. And if not, well, you can always try coming up with your own ways to get the creative juices flowing. Whatever works. Now get out there and change the world.

Daniel Andreani is creative director at McKee Wallwork & Co. He developed his skills as a partner and ECD for BBDO, Sid Lee and TAXI. He has worked for worldwide brands such as Red Bull, Pepsi, Chrysler, Campbell’s Soup Company, EFFEM foods, Johnson & Johnson, and Royal Bank. Connect with Andreani on Twitter @danielandreani and on LinkedIn.