By Adam Taylor-Smith
I had to hit the snooze button four times before I finally managed to get out of bed today – the day before we start back for term 2. I think I lost my will power somewhere amongst the festivities.
I started to feel the first twinges of panic that I might not get everything done by tomorrow. Eighteen days seems like a very long time right up until the moment the sun rises on the seventeenth day.
Last week I watched a mini documentary on Peter Brookes. I didn’t actually know anything about him beforehand, but he’s been The Times political cartoonist since 1992 and he’s extremely popular. It turns out there are a number of parallels between his work and the work of an advertising creative.
At one point in the documentary he says that, “for some reason it just sort of comes together by the time it has to.” Seeing as I hadn’t achieved quite as much as I’d hoped it was encouraging to hear him say those words.
Peter Brookes sits alone in his office. He thinks up and creates one cartoon a day, five days a week. That may not sound a lot, but it’s hard work and he’s never missed a day.
After years he has developed confidence in his ability – he always knows he will produce something. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t begin to panic on the days when it gets to 4 o’clock and he still doesn’t have an idea.
It’s precisely because there is a deadline and an inevitable sense of panic that Brookes always comes up with something. It’s no excuse for my laziness, but the best ideas do tend to come when you start to fear the worst.
Morten Morland, another cartoonist, says “the deadline is actually the most important thing. It’s what makes what we do not Art but journalism.” I suppose it’s the same thing that makes advertising not Art, but the art of commercial persuasion. It’s done to a deadline and a tight brief. It doesn’t exist for the sake of it.
Over the holiday it’s been easy to let the days slip away. Brookes admits day dreaming out of the window and allowing your mind to wander is an important part of the process. I’ve definitely done quite a bit of that part. I just haven’t always brought my mind back to a productive state because the deadline seemed so far away.
The newspaper gives Brookes a 285mm by 200mm box to fill. He explains that he loves attempting to draw this box without a ruler before he starts. He gets a real sense of pleasure when he measures it and discovers he’s got it exactly right. It seems strange that a cartoonist would care about something so precise. I wondered if it has something to do with an appreciation of boundaries.
It’s a common misconception that creativity needs endless freedom in order to flow. In advertising creativity thrives when it’s restricted. It is, after all, problem solving. If there is no problem then there is nothing to focus your thoughts on.
This term is going to be harder than the last. I know I need to get back on track. I know how much I will benefit from some enforced structure and some restrictions and boundaries. It’s tough to admit it, but I need the early starts. I need to get back fast before my mind drifts off again.