Practical Creativity: Shaking Things Up on a Budget and Deadline

You can be as creative as you want to be and take all the time you need if you’re sitting on your back porch painting watercolors, or writing your own book. But if you’re using your creativity in the service of others, a great cause or bigger purpose, you’ll soon be bumping up against two big issues: budgets and deadlines. As foot soldiers of creativity, we like to make jokes about it. I once posted on Instagram the classic Douglas Adams quote: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

But the reality is that in a creative environment, results matter. Advertising legend David Ogilvy is famous for saying, “It’s not creative unless it sells.” That’s a hard thing to digest for young creatives, but particularly here in Hollywood, no matter how creative a designer gets with a movie poster concept, or a director gets with a film, or a producer gets with mixing a hit song, if it’s not successful, it’s tough to make a comeback.

That’s why discipline matters in creativity. Finding the right time of day to create, the right place, and the right tools are paramount to achieving your best results. The question is, How much can you shake up traditional thinking while on a budget and while facing a hard deadline?

It’s interesting to note that in almost every case, when a filmmaker here in Hollywood gets complete control and an unlimited budget on a project, it invariably fails. There seems to be something about having hard rails on the sides of the bowling alley that actually inspires creativity.

Steven Spielberg? Martin Scorcese? George Lucas? All deal with budgets and deadlines. So my advice is to stop fighting the limitations, and start using those limitations to shake things up. Just a change in that perception alone will unleash a new attitude and perspective on your work.

After all, we’re talking about creativity, right? We’re talking about the ability to break through. That’s why it’s encouraging to remember the quote by advertising maven George Lois: “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”

Now start shaking things up…

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