Creative passion – Love it, Own it, Let it go

Every creative person I know struggles with the question of when to fall on their sword for their work, when to accommodate the feedback and when to let it go.

Love your idea
To get great creative work you have to love your idea. It has to excite you. You can picture exactly how it will turn out, what it will look like, even what the audience reaction will be.

It’s your excitement that brings people with you. When you present that amazing idea your enthusiasm is contagious, everyone else gets a glimpse of the idea that was born of your imagination. They may not see your vision but they trust that you do and that the outcome will be something everyone will be proud of.

Creative work as a collaborative process
One of the big differences between creating for your own pleasure and working in a creative job, is the client. Some of the creatives I’ve known see the client as the bane of their existence. They often forget that the client is as vested in the work as they are, because it’s their race also.

Think of the project as the baton in a relay race, with the client running the first and last legs, the agency running the middle two.

The client has the need. Without their need for creative work, there would be no brief, no media budget, requirement for creative ideas, there would be no race.

And the client knows your creative expertise will get them through the middle sections, they recognise your unique talent that will give them an advantage. They’re handing you the baton and hope you will run with it like the race is yours.

You’ve got to own it
To really understand their need, you’ve got to take it on board and make it yours. You’ll understand the audience, the competition, and what the brand stands for.

All that knowledge ends up in you creative work and you have to believe, yourself, that the work you’ve come up with will get the job done.

So you’ve met their need with something you love. It works in your head, you’ve written the copy and pitched with energy. If the client loves it also, you run your second leg, finish the work and hand the baton back to them. They take it through to the finish, to make sure the things you’ve promised in your ad get fulfilled.

Coping with feedback
Sometimes, at this point, it can be a struggle to remember that you are in the race together. No matter how much your client loves your idea, there are going to be things they ask you to do. It’s a commercial world, there are tags, manditories and legals that have to be accommodated.

As one Marketing Director eloquently put it “you’re idea won the pitch, your idea was made – go with it and try to influence the changes or mandatories in the most creative and expressive way.”

To do that you have to lessen your grip a little. Often a good project can become difficult just at the end, when that clean creative piece you’ve been honing, needs to become a commercial workhorse and carry a bundle of information.

Knowing when to let go
No one wants to feel manipulated, creatives or clients. That’s where it helps to remember that both of you are in the race and no one will win if you are having a tug a war over the baton.

You have your reputation at stake, your client has their business at stake.

Recognizing your idea isn’t going to get made
Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not a matter of tweaks and changes. Sometimes the client doesn’t see the potential or doesn’t think it matches their vision of the brand.

There is a belief that digging in your heels and refusing to listen to the clients comments is a creative option. I’d suggest that it’s not. When creative people begin bullying, insisting or refusing to work with client feedback the relationship gets damaged.

Hindsight might show you got an award winning ad “despite the client” but the truth is you probably lost the client in the process.

Reframing how you look at client feedback can make all the difference. When it is a battle of wills, you against them, someone has to lose.

When you see it as a new creative challenge and accommodate feedback as new information you’ve received, it moves away from a power struggle.

Creative confidence
I’ve worked with some great creative people. One told me that when she gets client feedback that kills the idea, she sees it as a chance to come up with something totally new. “It would be boring if you could only solve a problem one way.”

That attitude is a true sign of creative confidence. You have to believe you have the ability to think about things in a new way, then make space for your imagination to come up with a new idea.

It means setting aside the idea you loved and looking at the problem from a different perspective, adding in the new information to come out with a different result.

And then it’s a whole new race…


  1. Kathy – this is spectacular, from the advice to the imagery.

    You are right, it’s so easy to get chained to your idea and not see the bigger picture. Which sadly in many cases, has to be the client’s business. Having worked on both sides of the creative equation, I know how hard that can be.

    From my time as the client I can tell you that stubbornly digging in your heels on creative, without a business rationale, never gets you anywhere. It comes across as petulant, not passionate. I recently met a Creative who was so open to questions and changes it threw me. I finally realized that he had the rare understanding that his vision wasn’t always right and that it didn’t matter because he was capable of coming up with more. It’s the later part of that equation, the confidence that you mentioned, that made me trust him 100%. He will be my go-to guy for future work.

    Nice post.

  2. Thanks for the comment, there is nothing more fun than working with a creative that trusts their imagination will deliver. They don’t try to shut the conversation down because they are genuinely curious and interested. Its great to hear you’ve found one.

  3. A rather nice analogy. It reminds me of a client I had who insisted on holding tightly on to the baton, running all the way, and then dropping it just short of the finish line. No surprises who got the blame.

  4. Hi Mark, thanks for the note, great reminder that it works both ways. I always say if the client makes the ad it will be the best ad they can make , if the agency makes the ad, they will make the best ad they can … and it is what they do for a living. Thanks for writing.

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