What I’ve learnt about creativity after 12 weeks of AWARD school.

I sit here a broken man, days after my AWARD (Australian Writers and Art Directors) portfolio of 10 ideas on 10 briefs has been submitted, tired. Just tired.

Whilst I went through the entire process as an imposter - seeing that I have no intention of becoming a creative - I feel so thankful to the opportunity to undergo the whole process, and so pleased that I had a real crack at it… late nights, early mornings, weird dreams, ridiculous insights, and so so many pages ripped out of scrap books and started again. Week after week after week . I apologies to trees.

In the process of absorbing myself in “the program”, here are some of the things I learnt along the way. Some about creativity, some about the 12 weeks in general, and some not actually things I’ve learnt but mere observations that someone thinking of doing the course in 2018 may find helpful.

The ON Button

Working on ideas that rely on wicked insights and original thinking, there’s no off button. From the moment I’d receive a brief every Thursday night, I would hone in on that product / audience / category relentlessly. This meant becoming absent in most social, sleeping and professional scenarios to think about something differently or to write something down. 

Thinking is more consuming than doing.

Question Everything

We were told on day one that cultural programming is the program we live our lives in, and that we only see our true selves when we step outside that program. At the time it seemed like a fancy, well articulated sentence about how to get than interesting thought. But as time went on, I noticed this was the core of every great insight. 

Once I started thinking like this I’d notice every time someone gave me an automated, culturally programmed response. When I asked ‘how are you’, people always answered ‘good’. Why? When I’d see work colleagues on a Monday, the first sentence was always about my weekend. Did they actually care? 

The deeper I got into AWARD school, the more I realised I was questioning why we’ve all become programmable zombies, and how good ideas can help expose that. 

Discovering New Angles

I’ve never thought about so many (well, ten) different products or services from such different angles. By this I mean anything from literally angles (looking at a product upside down) to how it differs depending on who the audience is, the context it’s viewed in, even to what it would look like to an alien. 

Only when I got into that line of thinking and questioning would I arrive at any half decent insights. Why is the water in abathroom tap perceived as dirtier than a kitchen tap? (we had a tap water brief) If tissues could fear death, are there many products that would live with higher anxiety levels? (we had a Kleenex brief). If the internet ended, would a looping gif still have an infinite life span? (we had an ‘unlimited internet’ brief). The list goes on.

Finding Bad Ideas

This was my particular skill. I would come up with not just a few, but I’d say a hundred bad ideas for every brief. The worst thing about my hundred bad ideas is that they weren’t bad straight away, they were just hidden in one of these categories:

  1. 33 would be unoriginal (but I wouldn’t realise as they were still creative and answered the brief)
  2. 33 were off-brief (but I wouldn’t realise as they were original & creative)
  3. 33 were clever, but not simple (but I wouldn’t realise as they made sense in my head)

One of them (usually the 100th) maybe had something in it (I’d submit that one).

In-head vs On-paper

I won approximately 15-20 Cannes Gold lions over the course of the 12 weeks. But then I took those award winning ideas out of my head, put them on paper, and looked at them the next day.

They sucked.

The Best Bit

It got easier.

And by ‘it’, I don’t mean coming up with fresh and unique ideas got easier. 

But filtering our the crap ones did. And that saved time on those ones to get to the good ones.

Which was still really hard.

Life Admin

Is now in a 12-week deficit.

If there’s on shout out to end this article with, it’s the the tutors from 12 or so different (Sydney) agencies (then add Vic, QLD and WA to the mix). They sacrificed so many countless hours (most nights til 10:00pm, submission week for my group went to 2:00am), and gave so much of their brain power and knowledge to us crazy kids, all for the love of helping the industry generate better creative talent.

You’re heroes - I would literally never be that selfless.