Category Archives: Creativity
Advertising has always been a field that is seen through the looking glass of awe, wonder and magic. The things that copywriters and designers do, the jingles the musicians churn up, the TV commercials that are made, have enamoured many a young lad and lass – either to embrace tightly or to reject entirely, the ability and possibility to be in this Creative field, probably the most creative field in the 21st century.
And yet, when I spoke about Creative writing and Copywriting to the Northpoint batch, I was compelled to tell the younger ones, that advertising is not all about creativity. That the bread-butter of most advertising agencies comes not through the super-creativity that we associate advertising with, but regular, boring stuff. Like plainly written brochures, information pamphlets, TV ads that talk about Rs.2 off on a boring soap bar. Hours and hours are spent on doing stuff that will lead to cold, hard sales, rather than a gold at Cannes or an award in-house.
Yes, the industry is more creative, than say the banking sector. But what about when you are working on an ATM notice poster (the kinds you see inside ATM cabins all the time and never pay attention to?) that just wants to say that the interest rates on outstanding credit card amounts have been increased to 2.25%? The super creative alcohol, watches, condom ads that make into the mock-portfolio of many a ‘creative’ kinds are not the stuff that you do daily.
And indeed, even within the industry, the people are split into the ‘Creatives’ and ‘everyone else’. The creatives will include the copywriters, the designers, the musicians, the film-makers. Everyone else includes the Account Planners, the Client Servicing, the Business Development. While the Creatives will execute the final leg of the process, it is a lot of hours spent on the initial brief by the everyone else that results in a good ad campaign, as much as the brilliant twist of phrase by the copywriter or the excellent design element by the visualiser.
For a student, to understand the industry and how it works, it is essential to strip away the boundaries between the creative and the business sense. It is essential to know that creativity required for advertising is not the Pablo Picasso kinds. The creativity is not the ends by itself. It is a means to achieving sales or brand building – an objective beyond itself. The creativity required for advertising can be learnt by those who are ready to work on their language and design skills. It is not necessarily a bastion of those born with a flair for writing or design. That might just make the entry easier. But staying in the industry, doing work that is effective rather than creative, requires experience, understanding of people and psychology and the humbling knowledge that your job hinges not on how utterly awesome you are but whether you can deliver good stuff on strict deadlines. Stuff based more on client requirements than that super idea of yours.
Like Piyush Pandey told us during my convocation at Northpoint, “Advertising is a lot of fun. There are parties, glamour, celebrities. But once you finish your course and get into the real world, you will realise ki kaam bhi karna padta hai!”
Check out the photos of our session here.
I managed to read the book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything over the weekend. The book, written by Ken Robinson, talks about the importance of finding the one thing that you like the most and then pursuing it passionately for a fulfilling life. Paul Graham more or less says the same thing in his famous article How To Do What You Love.
Robinson’s book triggered a number of thoughts in my mind. It is full of examples of people from various fields, including sports, dance, music and entrepreneurship; the people who made it big. When I was reading about these people, I found an unmistakable similarity among all of them. They all wanted to live a meaningful life. They all wanted to achieve something. They were also determined to put in the efforts, and were passionate about the things they chose to do.
What separates these people who are so full of life from the ordinary people is not that they found their element as Robinson puts it. I think it’s the zeal for perfection and the passion for life and the passion for everything that they choose to do is what makes them extraordinary.
Our education system is designed in such a way that most of the students hardly get an opportunity to try out anything in their school days. It also defines a very linear path to success. Perform well in academics, go to a decent college, get a degree and you will get a decent job. It is only after college that people realize that it doesn’t work that way. You need to have much more than just a degree to not only get a decent job, but also to live a decent life.
Our society fosters a false notion in children’s heads that to succeed in life, you only need to clear exams with good marks. Forget extra-curricular activities, even learning and understanding of subject matter is considered secondary. Independent learning is not encouraged. Students are provided ready-made notes, have tuitions outside schools and are taught formulas to clear exams. This approach proves very dangerous as students remain weak academically as well as do not develop important life skills such as communication skills, critical thinking, or appreciation of art.
I agree with Robinson that you need to find where your interest lies and then pursue that interest for a happier life. But I do not agree that this interest is innate, or it can not be created/manufactured, or that we can not have multiple interests. As a child, I was not exposed to either reading or writing. But I still developed an interest in them. Most of the people who go on to become artists have a natural interest in those arts, along with the talent of course. But I also know many people who develop an interest after they get exposed to something. One of my friends took up Fine Arts because his uncle told him to. Before that he had never thought of it as a career option. But in his fourth year in college, he said that he was really enjoying it, and liked the idea of pursuing a career in it. You develop an interest in things as you dabble in them.
I think having an interest is secondary to developing a passion for something, because it can be manufactured (provided you have talent and have taken enough training for that particular thing). What is important is the positive approach to life, zeal for perfection, being open to try out new things, open to learn new things and not caring much about the conventional definition of success. Life does not have a final goal (Death can not be a person’s final goal. If it was, everybody would have committed suicide). There is no such thing as an ultimate success. We can only have short term goals. But it is very important to enjoy the process as we strive to achieve them.
This is a story written during The Residential Creative Writing Power Camp that was held at Igatpuri between the 24th and 26th of May, 2013. Hope you like it.
A quick note. Barf (pronounced to rhyme like Turf or Surf and not as Scarf) in Hindi means Ice.
It was only those few seconds when they unloaded him from his personal fridge to move him into the ice-cream godown that had left half his left ear looking eaten up. And he made no qualms showing his displeasure! He squinted his black button eyes in a way that made the trolley workers look at each other and wonder whether they were dealing with a cute snowman or an abominable one.
All of four feet and three fat globes of snow, including the smallest one on top for his head, Barf Master, as the new kids in Mumbai called him, was the least favourite of his master, back in the more comfortable climes of Greenland. A comfortable minus four degrees on warmer days and nippier on cooler ones, Mumbai in May was not Greenland at all! All he had got for coming here was a name he didn’t like, a melted ear and probably a heat boil on his bum.
His master, although he didn’t quite like him, had been a rich spoilt brat. He had made about a hundred snowmen last year and Barf Master was one of the earlier ones. While the newer snowmen had custom made noses and human looking eyes complete with the white of the eye and irises in various hues and colours, Barf Master was the old school kinds. Cucumber nose, old coat button eyes and three ping-pong balls for buttons on his trunk. When his master’s father’s company had decided to send snowmen for children in hotter climates to play with, Barf Master had been one of the first ones to be given away.
The children in Mumbai had loved him! Scrawny, dirty and so dark, Barf Master had never seen children like these! He had cringed the first time they came to look at him and when the naughty ones had tried to touch him. He still cringed each time. He now lived in an old and huge refrigerator that had once been used as an ice-cream godown. It was situated in the middle of a huge slum complex and the children swarmed from all over it to look at Barf Master. They had seen so much snow for the first time in their lives!
>May and June had turned out to be when the most number of kids visited him. While he cribbed and complained and cringed, he reveled in the attention he was getting. He didn’t like the kids touching him and leaving brown finger stains on his once spotless white body, but he loved the “Ah!”s and “Ooh!”s he inspired. That is why when July and August saw less of them because rains had flooded the storehouse in which the refrigerator was, Barf Master had been almost heartbroken. So imagine his relief when the kids started coming back to see him in September! He had thought, he would never see them again! Barf Master had smiled from ear to melted ear when they came to meet him and he hadn’t even cringed when a little kid had tried to lick him.
All of this changed in October. October in Mumbai was May all over again. But this time, apparently it was worse. Fewer and fewer kids had come to see Barf Master. One day when only two kids had turned up, Barf Master heard them talking about it being so hot outside that kids had been falling sick, some were even in the hospital. This was just horrendous! Barf master remembered how painful it was to lose part of his ear. He could only imagine how it would be for the poor kids. But what could he do for them?
>As night fell, he came up with a plan. He had already made friends with all the cool air in the refrigerator. He knew the cool air was just the hot air from outside that was better off. All he had to do was to tell the cool air to tell the hot air to cool off! And he did just that. While he couldn’t move from where he was, he directed all the cool air in his huge refrigerator to go off from the vents and cracks, outside, and to let the hot air in instead. While the hot air cooled in the refrigerator, he spoke to it and asked it to do the same! And boy, did that work! While it made him sweat and melt a little everyday, the kids started getting better. More of them came to see him everyday. October was getting worse, but the kids were getting better.
Till one day when the hot air came in and for some reason Barf Master started sweating and melting a little more than usual. It was a little after noon and the watchman had gone for lunch. That is when these bunch of kids walked in. There were four of them and one of them looked very sick. For all the dark she was, she looked pale. Tiny, frail thing, she couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Listening to their talk, Barf Master came to know that she couldn’t bear the heat outside. So, they had gotten her to Barf Master’s fridge, to sit till the evening. Barf Master was sweating and melting quite a lot. He noticed the kids had left the door open. Hot air blanketed him. He could feel his cucumber nose slipping from his face.
The kids stayed there till the watchman came and shooed them away. It was almost dusk. The air was still warm and for Barf Master it was like he was in a volcano. He had melted to half of what he was. He kept sending out cool air while hot air came back in. He knew he wasn’t going to last for long, but he had to send the cool air for the kids. He couldn’t even remember what it was like at Greenland anymore, even when he tried hard.
The next day the kids came to see Barf Master in the morning, there was nothing but a pool of water, some ping-pong balls, buttons and a cucumber. They complained to the watchman who came in and saw that there was a crack in the back wall of the refrigerator. It let outside air in. And on a day when there was no electricity in the entire city, what else could happen to a useless snowman but this, he pointed to the dirty pool of water and asked the kids.
I just love my Sunday mornings, especially the ones when I have my Poetry Sundays, where I meet about a dozen kids between the age group eight to 14 at “Just Book clc” at Hiranandani Meadows, Thane every fortnight.
These Poetry Sundays are special because they are such fun! There is so much learning and there is a lot of joy! Here the children learn to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas through the medium of poetry and then gain the confidence to share these ideas and emotions when they read out their poems to others.
This week we were looking at personification as a tool to enhance our poems. As part of the exercises, we got the kids to match nouns with words that were randomly picked from a box. The results were hilarious and laughter filled the library as children looked at combinations like waves sleeping and the sun crying.
What was amazing is that not one of the kids questioned how clocks could snore or fountains would sneeze. Instead the conversations went something like this.
Yash: How and why will dragons run?
Shrushti: Maybe they are baby dragons and they are running to the edge of the cliff in a race and they will go whoooosh off the edge and fly.
Sunil: What could make the sun stand in one place?
Srikant: Because it was noon and he had already reached the top of the sky. He was tired and wanted to rest?
Shrushti: Okay, then why would the sun cry?
Janice: Because he was eclipsed
And thus did mini stories emerge about how the clock was so tired of waking up the child in the morning, that it too went back to sleep and snored and how it was so cold that the chilled water made the fountain sneeze.