ARTICLE: Finding A Lighthouse In The Storm

Originally Posted On LinkedIN

Be A Creative Storm Chaser

Warning: there are a lot of metaphors in this one…

Working in any form of creative craft – where your job relies on you working with ideas brought from the ether and crafted into existence can be both exciting and exhausting. We trap ourselves in rooms and cover the walls with bad ideas as if it will help get them out and we will find a good one in the haystack. We write the same words in different orders to fill pages until the all sound the same. We bang our heads against walls filling ourselves with stress that is purely in our heads but can easily manifest physically into lack of sleep, bad eating (or no eating), anxiety, increased heart rates, and self medication as if we are racing for life while sitting still. Anyone who says the job is easy has never tried it.

I’ve always been a shotgun creative. I like to go shallow and wide first and find my way. I’ve heard digging shallow holes…peeling layers of an onion… I rarely give one answer or solution until the direction is found. And I am cautious of being overly excited for a single idea until it is in production. And just like when I craft it myself, creative directing it can often lead to the same sense of feeling overwhelmed and lost when you are desperately trying to help others find the idea or sell the idea up to a client or other stake holders within. However the fear of failing is now slip between those the idea is for and those who are trying to crack it for them.

I was trying to think of a metaphor recently that really did that feeling justice and I think this one encapsulates it well:

“Finding A Lighthouse In The Storm”

Unfortunately managers in creative positions can easily fall slave to a jaded perspective of riding the storm is normal and acceptable as a constant state. They forget that the storm comes in like a lion but eventually will die out and reveal the sun. This leads to a callous world view that can easily corrupt your team and their projects – “It’s always a hurricane so just ride it out and hope you don’t drown”.

A different mind set to have is to see the other side of that storm. It actually makes you more calm, removes stress and you become a source of calm in others. Yes it is dark and scary – but it can also be rewarding and challenging. You can ride it through and work hard to find that shore and with your team you don’t have to be alone. Acknowledge when it’s getting rough or will get rougher. Remind them and yourself there is a greater good to be found and work at being the calm reasoning voice in the room. These moments make you stronger. And if you find you do them too much raise your hand and speak up or get a plan together. If you are unable or told not maybe you are on the wrong boat – it happens, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. What I find helps is to find a perspective from the past.

Take a moment and look at your work. Our portfolios are filled with duds. Failed chances at glory we sheepishly try to forget or distance ourselves from – too often we can believe that is all we have to our names. Our books are also filled with wins. Sometimes even wins that others appreciate and wish they did. If you look back at them, many of those wins still had to go through a moment long or short of despair as you held on tight hoping you would get somewhere safe. And if you didn’t ride through the chaos to get to the final expression you would not have anything to show.

I encourage everyone to do this not only in our professional creative lives but in our personal lives. I have 2 children, they can be chaos and the first years of their life was hard, but when I pause – I can’t imagine life now without them. I’ve been married for over a decade to a women I met twenty years ago, I can’t image life without her. I have been in more industries than many from artist to illustrator to designer to 3D animator to art director to creative director in everything from magazines to advertising to creating software. None of it has been easy, but the storms came and went and I’m thankful I made it through each time to be able to look back at them and learn from. I’m thankful to everyone who has ridden on those boat rides with me.

Here’s to riding the storms and getting back on sturdy ground.

Have a great day…and back to the boat!

Originally Posted On LinkedIN


About The Author

Todd Lawson has worked as an gallery artist, commercial artist and a creative leader in advertising, design, illustration, CGI, publishing industries and software product design. As well as a leader in the automotive marketing space since 2002, Todd has been fortunate to have done some great work, worked with some great people and been recognized globally for it. He works with companies at all levels of development to lead, mentor, ideate, grow teams, guide projects, face to face interaction with clients, partner with vendors, seek out new technology and trends, plan and execute. See artwork, marketing projects and more articles at


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