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Open Letter to a Creative On The Ropes.

This morning I wrote an email to a kid I heard was in the dumps. Thought someone else out there could possibly use the same chuck-on-the-shoulder.

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Hello ____, it’s me, Luke.

I hear “through channels” that those clients have had you on the ropes for the last month or so; got you a little down.

Been there, dude. I spent THIRTY THREE years in the trenches where you are now and I think I had one client, one stinkeen client who needed no education. One client in alllll that time who just kinda got it.

In order to survive 33 years of clients who either don’t or won’t get it, I encourage you to do what my big brother Kip did.

Kip was (is) a Harvard-trained lawyer who spent all of his professional life earning 1/100th of what he could have earned being a corporate lawyer. Instead, he spent years as a $14,000-a-year kind of lawyer who represented nonprofit clients, causes that couldn’t pay a dime, organizations that were busy fighting the good fight — standing up to big power companies that were turning off the power in the homes of poor people, causes like that.

And one day I asked my brother, “Damn, how do you keep from getting mad or depressed as you fight such people?” And his answer was, “I never let myself get over-the-top mad. I just keep my anger at a very low boil. Always.”

A low boil. NO boil means you’re close to giving up. You need to keep some fight in you. But boiling over? That leads to a short bitter career; probably a short bitter life.

I’ve always remembered my big brother’s answer. In order for any artistic soul to survive in a world full of number-crunchers, politics, and marketing people who just don’t get how cool and how effective advertising can be, we need to remember, LOW BOIL. I wrote recently in these pages, “The first duty of an artist is to survive.” You must make sure that the bright light you bring to the industry is not snuffed out by the first 85 bad meetings you have, and you’re gonna have ’em.

If something dies, in fact, when the first 85 things die, soldier on. One out of 85 things surviving? Sad to report, but that’s pretty much par for the course in this business, which is essentially one of artists presenting things to scientists.

So, my young friend, let your defeats be funerals of short duration, but your victories? Celebrate any victory, large or small, with wild bacchanalia.

Your cheerleader, Luke Sullivan

Good Creative People are NEVER Bored. (or) What I learned at the “George W. Bush Presidential Li-Berry.”

Recently, Heidi Ehlers, (Creative Career Consultant, and founder of Heidi Consults, told me about a lesson she once learned from her mother. Heidi had just moped into a room to whine to her mother, “Momma, I am so bored.”  And her mother responded, sagely if a little coldly, “No my dear, you are boring.”

Sue me if you want, but I agree with Heidi’s mom and want to pass along some advice to students everywhere: If you are even capable of being bored, I don’t wanna hear it. In fact, never let on to anyone, especially your creative director, that you have the kind of intellect capable of being so switched-off it can be bored.

When you say, “I was so bored this weekend” you’re stating that you find the entire universe – in all its mystery, in all its explosive beauty, in all its fractal complexity –  that the entire universe bores you. Saying “I’m bored” suggests  you’ve in fact seen  and thought of every interesting thing in the universe, read every book, been down every street, looked into every window, talked to all 7 billion people and that until some NEW material comes along, frankly, you’re not at fault for mopin’ around the house and draggin’ your knuckles a little bit. “Sorry, but there’s  nuthin’ ta DO.”

I simply cannot imagine a smart person being bored, ever.

I try to picture Albert Einstein moping around his house with “nuthin’ ta do.” I can’t. I try to imagine, say, Malcolm Gladwell hangin’ out over at Paul McCartney’s house and they’re tossing cards into an upturned hat, both grumbling about how bloody boring everything is. I can’t. I try to imagine George W. Bush  and …  well, that’s a fairly easy image to conjure.

(There’s W at his ranch. His cable is out which means he can’t watch NASCAR so he’s out on his porch waiting for the cable guy, munching on Cheetohs and as he reads the back of the bag, his lips move.)

The other day someone told me how bored he was and the metaphor came to mind of a street drunk asleep on the steps of the public library, his brain an insensible dollop of meat loaf  idling  at the feet of the stone lions in front of the vast cathedral of knowledge; his back to kaleidoscopic mystery of existence, his legs twitching, and his sputtery little two-cylinder mind, idling, twitch-dreaming of some Sterno-numbing pleasure, perhaps a People magazine.

Perhaps I am too harsh, but if he’s waiting for this watchman to prod him along down the sidewalk with my nightstick, forget about it. Be bored. Yawn into the abyss. The rest of us will be too busy inhaling all the knowledge and experience  we can before our time is up and our candle gutters. We will never be bored. Good creative people are naturally interested in everything, curious about everything.  They inhale the world.