Creative Control

Images of a designers work area

Who has creative control? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. When you’re in the business of making money using your creativity there are many stakeholders, so no one person really has complete creative control. There’s always someone else in the equation with whom you must negotiate. The boss, the client, and the market.

One dark morning, I came into work very early to discover the lead strategist had re-written my copy with my boss’s approval. Thinking I was alone in the office, I decided to throw a chair. Dumb move for a lot of reasons. And boy did I look dumb when my boss came out of his office to see what had happened. For that moment, I had given up the only control I ever had over my creative, the control over myself. The way I handled that situation was totally up to me and I failed. Later I apologized for abusing the man’s furniture suggested a way forward we could all live with and produced the best campaign the client ever bought.

Yes, I made a few compromises with my copy to sell it but that was the only way to get back into the process. We kept rewriting that damn copy all the way to 5 minutes before rolling and even rewriting during the filming and in the end, we filmed the copywriter’s words when folks saw their words were literally not working. We should never, ever throw our hands up (or chairs) and say fuck it. We should take an inventory of what we have in our control and do our best all the time.

Take stock of the hurdles the must be crossed to get your idea made and then cross them one by one. You may trip once or twice. You may even have to make a small adjustment one by one. How you negotiate these adjustments will determine whether you end up with great or shit at the end of the day.

Some things you don’t have control over. Like is your boss having a bad day? Your client having budget cutbacks. Your supporters getting better jobs and leaving. And you don’t have control over deadlines. No matter what situation you’re working in as a creative there are going to be roadblocks that challenge your control over the creative product. Get over it.

That said, there are many things you do have control over.

  • You have control over how hard you work
  • You have control over how focused you are
  • You have control over the concepts you present to your colleagues
  • You have control over HOW you present your work
  • You have control over the attitude you express to others (not whining when you idea gets killed)
  • You have control over your internal mindset
  • You have control over who you work with to a certain extent

You only truly have control over the work that you do and how you respond to the stressful situations that we as creatives find ourselves in on a daily basis.

The most successful people in any business are usually the ones who handle stress well. The ones who don’t respond in kind when a client eviscerates their hard work. Then, after putting their heart and soul into the work are able to put the resentment of having their dreams crushed and do the hard work again and then again if needed. The creative who then has the presence of mind to listen to the other stakeholders and do the best work possible for the client and all of the stakeholders.

Now stop whining because the client doesn’t get it. Make something everyone agrees is great. Because the only thing you’ll ever really have creative control over is yourself. And that’s all you’ll ever need either.

Posted on: September 26, 2017, by :