It all comes
down to the brain –
creativity done well
is a balance
between passion and
“With great passion comes great responsibility.”
Recently, I was asked about my creative philosophy. Namely, do I have one? Seems like a reasonable question. Seems like something an Executive Creative Director ought to have.
Well, I’ve had many. Which, if you think about it, is as it should be. As creative professionals, we must remain open-minded and forever teachable. For us, one-way streets are typically dead ends.
Look at the term, “creative professional.” It’s almost an oxymoron, isn’t it? There’s tension there. The right brain (creativity) and the left brain (professional). But that’s the gig. That’s what we do.
Therefore, any philosophy we have must strike a balance between passion and responsibility. Said another way, we are both craftsmen and salesmen. We’ve got to do both.
Both ends burning…
Your exact philosophy will be a function of percentages. I’d say my current philosophy is 60% passion to 40% responsibility. Those numbers change over time.
Back in the day, I’m sure my split was more like 80/20. But then I started facing clients. I had to mitigate my obsession for winning awards and other personal achievements. I had to compromise. I had to listen. I became responsible-ish. Regrettable but inevitable, the metamorphosis did not come without pain.
Yet, it is important to note that while passion is the fun part — and closer to what people think about when they think about creativity — it is often destructive in too large a dose. Without empathy for the business, even the most brilliant creative person will be stifled… often by his or her own hubris.
Obviously, I don’t need to discuss the unduly “responsible” creative. They are hacks. To me, mortgaging one’s passion to the hilt is both sad and unmanageable.
While percentages vary, I’m a big believer in “responsible passion.”
In my next post, I’m going to talk about staying creatively fit and remaining relevant, which, in my view, is a critical precursor to any creative philosophy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A copywriter by trade, Steffan is perhaps best known for his provocative and iconic work on Altoids, The Curiously Strong Mints. Early into his long tenure at Leo Burnett, Steffan co-wrote “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile,” which (for better or worse) became a part of the lexicon.
Steffan currently provides creative leadership at Jumbo Shrimp, a San Francisco boutique responsible for elevating the creative product across a broad range of B2B and technology clients.
A one-time recipient of Crain’s prestigious “40 under 40,” Steffan is immersed in new media. His popular blog, Gods of Advertising was recently ranked top 20 by Business Insider.
He’s the recipient of advertising’s most prestigious awards, including numerous One Show Pencils, the Kelly Award for best print campaign in North America, and gold and silver Lions from Cannes.
Steffan has written three novels, all of which are available via online booksellers. His horror screenplay, Belzec: The Made Undead won Best Horror Screenplay at Action on Film, Chicago’s Horror Fest and several other festivals.