Seeking Inspiration

Issue 14 | March 2010

“Don’t forget you promised to write something about inspiration for Directory”, Patrick Collister reminded me in full ‘editor with a deadline approaching’ tone of voice. So, here I am, faced with a blank white page of a word document with a cursor flashing, in search of inspiration.

Of course, that’s the way every creative brief starts –usually with a blank sheet of paper and it is inspiration that leads to great ideas. I only have a day until he’ll be hassling me again about it, so my search begins for what to write.

First, I try the four tried and tested inspirational places: bed, bath, bar and bus.

First, going to bed with a great proposition has worked in the past, but the jetlag from recent travels mean I’m out faster than an anethesist’s countdown.

Next, the morning soak in the bath doesn’t happen today, due to teenage daughter’s priorities, so I can’t put to the test the theory that the hotter the water, the greater the inspiration. And I’m not in the shower long enough to think about anything.

The bus is replaced by the London underground, but this thinking space doesn’t work this time due to the overcrowding and close proximity of my fellow passengers listening to music at anti social levels.

Will the inevitable visit to the bar later in the day prove fruitful? I have a theory, which I’m keen to put to the test, namely that the more beer, the better the inspiration. Could this be true?

Unfortunately, no. I’m told that drinking is a social pastime and no-one else in the pub is interested in this brief. Strangely, however, I have found that simply getting out of the uninspiring environment of the office can often lead to a breakthrough. I remain convinced that Guinness is not only inspiring through the advertising they produce, but that drinking lots of it is also a route to a Cannes Lion.

The possibility of organising a brainstorm crosses my mind but the lack of a job number and the thought of entire walls covered in a planner’s captured thoughts put me off the idea.

I think of calling Patrick to pick his massive, Cambridge-educated brain for what he thinks would be a good angle, but a feeling of intimidation and inferiority overwhelms me.

I remember that inspiration is all around us and that and that apparently you can find inspiration in everything, and if you can’t, you should look again. So, I decide to walk to a meeting, searching for inspiration in the streets of London; through its sights and sounds. There is much to inspire, but the continuous distraction of a Blackberry’s buzz and a mobile’s ring complete the journey with no thought at all about what I’m going to do for the piece.

Desperation, leads to thoughts to plagiarism and nicking the writings and wise word of others. I’ve recently read Steve Harrison’s book ‘How to be more creative’ and he says that inspiration comes from the understanding of the problem. Well, I know what the problem is – I have a blank page to fill!

Back at home, the internet offers billions of pages of facts, images, films, blogs, tweets etc. The bookshelves are groaning with the inspirational work and words in award annuals and advertising theory books. Meanwhile, my teenage kids are in their bedrooms formatting the future. It is all too overwhelming and besides, the dinner bell has rung and there is great TV to be watched, TV I have saved on the hard drive of my Sky+ box so I can avoid the ads.

My wife is unsympathetic to my predicament, but breaks from a conversation about a girlfriend’s (many) problems to remind me that the previous week had been spend judging great ( and not so great) work at the Caples International awards. The creative community of fellow judges was truly inspiring and I reflect on the missed opportunity of asking them what I should write here.

A full 24 hours in search of inspiration finally leads me back to bed and the realisation that there is no one source of inspiration – it is anywhere and everywhere. Creative solutions to marketing problems come from passion to do great work, so just keep your eyes and ears open.

Here’s a few favourite of my inspirational places (other than the pages of Directory) that I visit regularly.

Duncan Gray is the Worldwide Creative Leader for Proximity but still spends much of his time as a hands-on art director. As such he has won major awards around the world, most recently with ‘Chocolate Letter’ for Royal Mail.

He has a wife, two children and a motor-bike. No yacht. The one in the picture belongs to someone else. Unfortunately, DM has not made Duncan rich.

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