The Ugly Truth


This drawing is by copywriter Mike Heid from the book The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born by Griffin Glenn and Deborah Morrison.

The authors of this book went from agency to agency asking creatives in the field to describe and illustrate what their creative process is like.

This drawing is simple, and maybe a little crude, but I resonate with it deeply.

I guess that’s what genius-level art like this is supposed to do.

This drawing reflects my top three favorite emotions: fear, dread, and anxiety.

Most of the time these emotions are fueled by procrastination, which I’m convinced is going to be my fatal flaw.

This drawing also touches on my other two great qualities, which are self-doubt and my sense of entitlement.

Here’s an example of my self-doubt: I over analyzed the first sentence of this paragraph and googled whether anxiety was an emotion or mental condition, and debated which word I would look more stupid using.

Yet even while I’m paralyzed with self-doubt, I still find time to feel indignant about being expected to do work. I swear I’m a good person.

How this reflects my creative process

My Creative process differs only slightly, but like Mike Heid, my first step in the creative process is to be excited about the project I just received.

Despite all my neuroses, I actually start out optimistic. I say to myself “Summer, this time it’s going to be different. This time you’re totally going to start this project weeks in advance.” Wrong. So, wrong.

The following is my personal version of Mike’s process.

Step two: Feel the ideas start to bubble. Meh, I’ll write them down later. Guys, can you believe Nicki said that to Miley at the VMAs?

Step three: Complain to anyone that will listen. How can anybody expect me to do this and keep up with all of my shows? This workload is just flat out unrealistic. Woe is me until I remember my grandfather used to have to wake up early to pick cotton and then I feel slightly guilty, so maybe I’ll start working.

Step four: Crap. I spent too much time procrastinating and the project is due in a few days. The fear sets in. Why did my parents bring me into this cruel world? This is their fault for not instilling more drive in me.

Step five is where Mike and I differ.

Step five isn’t chill out.

Step five is to procrastinate further by getting on my phone or watching a movie all while my fear and anxiety start to reach max capacity. There is no “chill and think mode.” There is only “go catatonic and watch more Netflix” mode.

I find that if I’m left with a blank piece of paper and my own thoughts the only thing I’ll start working on is a rough draft of my suicide note. If you can’t tell I can be very melodramatic at times.

Alas! Something on Twitter or something I heard on NPR while I was distracting myself from my mental breakdown inspires me to start writing.

After that one idea drips down the pipe more ideas start to flow like a fire hose, but not without a friendly reminder to myself that I will always be a hack.

And yet, even against astronomical odds, the combined effects of sleep deprivation and too much coffee eventually lead me to an idea that I like. Despite all the debilitating fear.