Why getting lost in the creative forest is a good thing
When asked where they got an idea, most creative people will think for a minute and say, “It just came to me.” Which is exactly what happened, right after they’d spent some serious time lost in what I’ll call “The Creative Forest.”
Great creative follows a process but it isn’t and never will be a linear process. Why? Because the very definition of creativity is taking two unrelated things and putting them together in an unexpected way. Truth be told, for most creatives the process probably started several years before when their brain was cataloging experiences, making observations and developing a curiosity of the world.
The creative brief is a heroic attempt to put something linear in the process and to an extent, it works. And here at LSB we have a concepting process called the Naked 8 to help jumpstart the creative process. (It’s also a good way to add a bit of ISO 9000 to the process.) But then, like a guy in a car answering text messages, creativity weaves, misses the corner and then goes totally off the road. And just to keep this metaphor going, if it doesn’t hit a tree first, it careens into the Creative Forest (please read these last two words in a Rod Serling voice).
We normally think of careening as a bad thing. But actually this is the ideal situation because when you careen you don’t really know where the entry point is, and you don’t really know where you’re going to end up. Being a little out-of-control opens up possibilities that you can’t see when the process is linear. Don’t think straight lines here, think squiggly. Think random doodles. Think of the scribble that happens when you try to get a ball point pen to work. After all, if you’re looking for an unexpected solution, you need a process that looks unconventional.
Okay, so, now we’re in the Creative Forest. What is it? This is the place where creative people just have to stumble around, get lost, digress, follow dead-ends, and generally be purposely lost. It’s chaotic, it’s wonderful”“and when you’re trying to attach two unrelated things, one of them being the product you’re selling”“completely necessary.
As a creative person, great things happen and awful things happen. You’ll find a wonderful idea only to discover it was in Archive magazine last year. You’ll find ideas that look good until you discover they have nothing to do with the product or the consumer insight you are working with. You’ll stare at your partner for several hours without saying anything. You’ll laugh. You’ll wonder if there actually IS a solution. There are digressions and uncertainty. And, on occasion, the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz (or maybe that’s just my experience).
In any case, the only ticket out is a great idea. But, when you find that idea, the only way to describe it is “It just came to us.”
So next time you see a creative team staring out the window, call it “process.” And, if they appear to be diligently typing? They’re probably just screwing around.