"...And Make It Real Creative!" - February 1998

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-1by Andy Capp

That’s a new design, on the Diet Coke can; no wonder the stuff costs so much. Kim has a new Loony Tunes jacket...real leather? A Christmas gift? I bet the Mel Blanc estate doesn’t even get a cut! This computer needs dusting. Why does it take so long to get a catalog? Don’t they want us to spend our money right away?  Postal Code, not Zip Code in Canada. Plus, the “e” at the end is not silent in “expire.” She tried five times and still got a busy signal. I wouldn’t have been that friendly. I really should have shaved; some mornings are like that. The carpet needs a good vacuuming; Matt’s gift certificate will come in handy.

Confused? What if I told you that the new/old typewriter is about the size of a John Deere tractor compared to the old/old typewriter, even though the old/old one looked more like one. And even though it was a blue pen, the ink was black (no matter how many times I signed my name, it was a mild surprise). Johnson? How do you get  Johnson out of Holly?!

It reminds me of a dream I used to have when I was a theater major. I always had it the night a show closed, and it never failed to slap me awake, covered in sweat. Seems I was backstage, in the wings...except I was supposed to be on-stage. Hurry up, you missed your cue!!!  Unseen hands shove me into the lights. Wait, I still have my street clothes on, and no make-up. I’m supposed to have a beard, right? Oh God, I don’t remember this set! What play IS this?  An ocean of expectant silhouettes look up at me. What the hell is my first line? What are ANY OF MY LINES?!!!!!!

Stumbling into someone else’s random thoughts is a lot like being pushed onto that dream stage. Some things may be vaguely familiar, yet nothing really makes any sense. Things don’t quite fit together, as if some sadistic child threw all of his brother’s puzzle pieces into one box and gave them a good shake.

You walk in the room, and the person sitting there is staring intently at the wall/lamp/carpet, or are they? At second glance, it’s all a facade. The minds eye is what’s really at work, the true object of its attention right there, yet completely invisible, and completely absorbing considering the startled expression when you ask, “What are you thinking about?” “Oh nothing,” is the fumbled answer, followed by a nervous smile and a quick subject change to the weather, your new shoes, anything but WHAT THEY WERE THINKING ABOUT. Was it too personal? Too strange? Too embarrassing?  Maybe all of that, maybe none of it, maybe more. Maybe it’s all too complicated to explain.

And it might just be. The recipe for a random thought...one new sound, sight, smell, taste, or touch, tossed vigorously with all the old ingredients (memories, life experiences, old Dilbert cartoons), and served up as all sorts of interesting brain salads, some just a quick bite, others a whole meal that could take some time to digest, none of it palatable to any one else, not without the same frame of reference...right?  

Here’s the other problem: that Motherly advice. You remember, “Think before you speak!” We’re taught from the moment we form words that the spontaneous ones are wrong, a mistake that can only lead to trouble. Not that Mom wasn’t right, the wrong thought thoughtlessly blurted out can cause some damage, especially regarding the odor when a group of long riding Harley bikers steps into a bar (don’t ask me how I know this). Still, everything Mom said wasn’t completely true; after all, it’s physically impossible to have clean underwear in an accident, and several things that were supposed to make me go blind have so far only forced me to wear glasses. Maybe those odd little thoughts aren’t completely bad. Heck, Robin Williams has made a nice living out of just letting go.

Try this when you’re writing/producing a spot: sit down with all the information (production order, script, clients bar napkin), a big pad of paper, and a marking pen--the bigger the better. As you read the information, write down whatever comes to mind, just scribble it out, big and bold. Don’t think it through; just let it go. Don’t judge, just put it down. Don’t think about penmanship, available music, making the client mad.  If you really set your mind free and write everything down as it appears, you should have a few sheets of nonsense in minutes. If not, you’re holding back. Tell the left side of your brain to take a nap and give it another shot.

The idea is to get ideas. It really doesn’t matter how far out, stupid, gross, or painful they are. Worrying about that will spoil the effect. Let Judge Leftside sort the good from the bad and ugly. You’re in your Right Mind now, a gloriously creative place to be. Here’s the real pay off: out of all those crazy notions, you’ll be surprised to find many great, original ideas that even your Left Brain will judge guilty of being useable, but you must reserve judgment until all the ideas are out.

It’s a game you can play with other people’s minds, too. Roam the building and do the word association thing, “Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say (client/service)?” Don’t give them time to think. Be a pest about it, and a few responses later you’ll have another list of rough cuts, ready to be polished into gems.

There is much creative power in random ideas. Whether they are seeds of greater ideas, or brilliant works in full bloom, it’s important not to ignore them. And one random thought in passing: if Bonnie made the cookies, be very afraid!

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