How many times have you heard it: “Don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you read.” Well, after spending ten years in New York, I came back home to where it all began. And discovered how true that can be.
I was at a favorite spot for lunch with cartoonist/humorist John Caldwell and some local advertising people. John introduced me to them, including Rachel, a young artist who was working as an illustrator for a department store. As soon as she heard my name, she said, “Oh, I know about you.”
“What do you know?,” I asked, intrigued.
“I know about how when you worked at Madison North, and you couldn't come up with an idea, you used to disappear for days, then come back and have the solution.”
Like most myths, this one had a speck of truth, around which a pearl of impossible proportions had been layered on -- and in just a little over ten years! At the risk of dimming the stars in her eyes, and losing a little personal luster, I had to turn this myth back into reality.
Any kind of creativity is work, even though it's fun work. What really happened way back when in the mid-seventies, was what happens to writers -- blockage. You can't think of an idea, a way to make a strategy come to life in a way that will make the ad stand out. When that happened, I would simply take a walk. Luckily, the agency was in an historical and beautiful section of Schenectady (yes, there are such things) called the Stockade, recalling the original Dutch settlement.
I would walk out the door, around the corner and the one block to my apartment, whose backyard sloped down to the Mohawk River/Erie Canal. I'd sit there for a few minutes, maybe even a half an hour, clear my mind and go back to my office in the third floor garret, and try a new approach.
Rachel's version was a lot more interesting than the truth. And even though Rachel was disappointed, and maybe you are too, I think the lesson is more important than the myth.