By Trent Rentsch
When friends outside of the business find out that I write this column, inevitably I’m asked what I write about. It was a challenging question for some time. I mean, I’ve written about the comparative value of heavily produced ads vs. straight voice, the importance of the relationship between the Creative Department and the Sales Staff, even the down and dirty way to create your own electronic swooshes, among other bits of shop talk. Start talking about those things to the average outsider and you get that blank expression I save for mechanics trying to explain what needs to be repaired under the hood of my car.
Eventually, the years of columns formed a pattern, and the answer became clear, at least to me. “I write about the day to day challenges of being a Creative, while still dealing with real life.” Most people then nod knowingly, but I can still see that light glazing of confusion in their eyes.
Let’s face it, being a Creative by trade is unlike most professions. The hours would never be confused with Banker’s hours, the pressure to produce something from nothing is a daily occurrence, and the product you produce is your brain child… your baby, who people often see fit not only to call ugly, but to rip limb from limb and turn it into some kind of Frankenstein version of what you intended.
Then there’s real life to deal with. Ahh, real life. Love, kids, bills, car accidents, weddings, funerals, illnesses (both germ and self-induced), relatives… if you were to tell me that none of these have affected your performance and/or attendance at work, I’d have to call you a liar. Life happens, and good, bad or ugly, we all cope with it the best way we can. And not being machines, it’s bound to sneak in and affect our work.
I consider this as my personal life is somewhat dismantled and remodeled at the moment. My dear wife and I are remodeling the main floor of our house, floor to ceiling. New paint, new flooring, new furniture, new front and back doors, new wooden shutters… new, new, new. It’s exciting, while at the same time disrupting. The painting went on over a weekend with the assistance of family, and of course furniture was out of place, ladders and paint cans were everywhere. Then came the day that our well worn furniture was hauled away by a friend for his spare room, which meant watching TV on the floor or a folding chair. As I write this, we’re into day 2 of new flooring installation, which brought with it a new level of disarray. I might sound anal retentive, but that’s actually about as far from the truth as you can imagine (much to my wife’s frustration). So when I say that the mess is uncomfortable even for my low threshold of comfort, you’ve gotta know it’s a mess.
In the midst of our housing facelift, life decided we needed a little more to do. For a number of reasons (most of them positive), my youngest son decided it was time to leave South Dakota and join us in North Carolina. He let us know this last Friday, and flew down on Sunday. Our focus had to take a sudden shift to the second floor of the house, the place we had crammed everything from the first floor to do the remodeling, and… well, you get the picture. This also meant that my plan to move my studio (or “man cave,” as my wife calls it) into the room over the garage (or “dumping ground,” as it had become) had to happen immediately, so the boy would have a room to call his own.
So, let’s review. Our house is torn up, most of the new furniture is still to be delivered, and we suddenly have a new body in the house… a body who needs furniture for his room, school enrollment, and things to do until that happens. Ha! Ha! Funny, life. Very funny. And while all this is going on, I still have to come to work, still write “real Creative” commercials… and, this column.
Let’s be clear, I’m not complaining. A couple of weeks of discomfort will mean a practically brand new home for my wife and I, a home that’s really, truly ours. And I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted my son to come live with us; there aren’t words that express how happy I am that he’s here. Still, it is ironic that just a few days before I began to write this, someone again asked me what the column was about, and I gave them what had become my stock answer. Little did I know that I was about to get a lesson on how challenging it is to be Creative, and still have all sorts of life’s little distractions bouncing around in my head.
So, how do you do it? How do you keep life’s challenges at bay while working on Creative challenges? Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Embrace what’s happening in the “real world,” and see if you can find some use for it in your Creative one. Remember, life happens to everyone, listeners included. Add a pinch of your real life problems, achievements or challenges, and your Creative will not only be more relatable to your audience, but you’ll be making real life issues work for you, not against you. After all, the process got me through this column… it can certainly get you through your next :60 second script request.