Unbreakable.

Females are strong as hell. Truer words have never been spoken.We bleed for 5 days in a row and don't die. We push small humans out of our bodies, sometimes more than once. We wear heels.

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But Kimmy isn't the only survivor. Titus escaped Mississippi. Jacqueline, a loveless marriage and the oppressive pressures of having to "keep up appearances." I know, it feels like a stretch, but everyone has their own unique struggle and every unique struggle is valid in its own way.

Sure, a bunker may seem like a real tangible prison, but being a gay black man in a southern town, or a "poor" divorcé in a world of wealthy couples is its own kind of hell, each with its own set of challenges. What unites them all, is their coping mechanism: present to the world the face you want them to see and save the tears for the dark. Which is what women have been doing for ages anyway, right?

Every woman on this planet is part Kimmy, part Titus and part Jacqueline. All at once. Every. Damn. Day.

We are Kimmy when we put other's needs before our own. When we find joy in the mundane. When we accept everyone as they are and love them for it. When we laugh because if we don't, we'll cry. When we struggle between being nice and being a doormat.

We are Titus when we follow our dreams. When we say "fuck Broadway" and make our own musicals. When we say yes to a love that might tear us apart. When we are scared because life is amazing and we are just waiting for everything to fall to pieces like it always does.

We are Jacqueline when we try to fit in. When we do everything in our power to get ahead and put our needs before anyone else's. When we fall victim to cruelty and depend too much on other's validation. When we are lonely. When try desperately to stop caring what everyone thinks but find it near impossible. When we are insecure and terrified and not sure where we belong.

Those parts fight with each other inside of us. We are always caring but selfish. Kind but cruel. Lonely but in love. There's a war zone inside all of us all the time. And we need all of those parts to survive. Kimmy to keep us positive. Titus to keep us dreaming. And Jaqueline to keep us from getting walked all over.

And sometimes, as much as we try to avoid it, we are all Mimi Kanasis and we just hide in a closet and wait for the storm to pass.

Peace, love and survival.

Ideal Parental Guidance

As creatives, we're always after the elusive "big idea." That one beautiful thought that is going to launch you into advertising stardom, if that's even a thing. We are frantically writing and collecting ideas like desperate women trying to get pregnant before they run out of eggs. Like every idea that falls out of our head might be our last. We don't care who it's with or where it comes from, we just want an idea-baby and we want it now. But before you go decorating the nursery, maybe you should find a mate. Sure, there are women out there (and men too, I'm sure) who want to be single idea-parents. Bonkers. Ideas, like children, are wild. They have minds of their own. They will run amok and wreak havoc if not contained. They need to be nurtured, and guided to the path of righteousness. Yeah, some still turn out to be pieces of trash, but what can you do? Get a partner, or 2 or 3, that's what you can do.

Find someone to go through the hard times with. Someone who will offer advice and perspective when you can barely see straight. Someone to tell you, "yeah, that idea is trash," and help you drop it off at the proverbial fire station. Or, "that idea is awesome, let's grow it into an even better one." You need a sounding board, a trash bucket, a shit ton of blank paper, an eraser, and a gold star. You need a partner in crime that is going to see you from conception, through birth, and all the way to college graduation. Because ideas, like babies, always turn out better if there's more than one person involved.

Basically what I'm trying to say is, no one can do this alone. Gold ideas do not spring from single minds. They are raised by a village of involved parents who will stop at nothing to protect, develop, and sometimes mercifully slaughter, the lifeless goo that seeps out of your noggin called an idea. Different people have different minds which offer new views, experiences, and ways of thinking. Go find your village.

peas, lurve, and idea-babies.

 

 

Cats are mean.

There comes a day (or several) in every creative's life when the work they have just presented is pushed off the table by a very smug cat (or several). They will knock it down, and while it's falling they will hiss and claw, and when it lands they'll probably pee on it, and you, a little. It's not personal. It's just what cats do. There are 3 very important things to remember in order to start creating again:

  1. You will start creating again. That cat is not the be-all-end-all of your creative career. Unless that cat fired you. Then it really might be, but probably not. You will get up, brush off the cat piss, and climb that creative ladder. Wrung by glorious wrung. "Cats can knock you over, but they cannot hold you down."-Chinese Proverb
  2. Even cats have off days. Creative pursuits are so incredibly subjective. And it goes beyond your work. What's going on in that cat marriage? Maybe they're tired, or have a cat superiority complex. That's not to say your work is always amazing and should be universally praised. Sometimes it really is trash and deserves to get peed on. But sometimes, this particular cat is cranky and moody and just wants to pee on you extra hard because you happen to be the last person that walked into his office that day. Just sayin, it's not personal. It never is. Some cats are just meaner about knocking down your work than others. But it's about the work, not you. That being said, cats are mean, and if you want to cry for 2 or 3 hours alone in your room after it happens, you are entitled to that. And even though you are scratched up and peed on, doesn't it feel really damn good to care about something so much?
  3. It gets easier. It really, really does. You develop a thicker skin every time. By the sixth or seventh time, you'll barely even feel the claws. Plus, after years of creating, you collect so much positivity to use in those down times. Every minute spent with your peers being silly and weird, experiencing new things, enjoying life together, and creating awesome, stupid, wild shit. That is what makes the cat piss worth while. Oh, and someone telling you that cats don't matter. Because they don't.

Everyone gets peed on. It's how we clean ourselves up that sets us apart.

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Peace, love & #circuspanel.

#CircusForum: Ecole Weinstein

Subhead: Girl Power, Bitches. Ecole Weinstein, CD at Havas Chicago, kept it 100 today as she revealed to us freaks 5 nuggets of wisdom she learned as a professional in the ad biz. But it was more than that. Whether she knew it or not (and I like to think she did), her entire forum was about women in advertising. Even when it wasn't.

Yes, of course, everything a woman in advertising does is a direct reflection of women in advertising. Shit, everything a woman in the world does is a direct reflection of women everywhere. Not that every woman is out to make a statement. The opposite actually. It is because in our global, yes global, society, woman are looked at through a very particular filter. We are seen as weaker, more emotional, less logical, and held to ridiculous standards for beauty. Therefor, in order to even be considered an equal, a woman must be stronger, colder, smarter, and more attractive than her male counter part. See also, Megyn Kelly is the Worst.

Weinstein is a woman in advertising. So everything she does is a direct reflection of women in advertising. True, this may be inevitable and unintentional, but I very much doubt that. Why? Thank you for asking.

Because this bitch is fierce, that's why. Because she is unapologetic and creatively charged. Because every single nugget she shared was linked to her personal experience in the industry and as such, it was insightful, creative, witty and yeah, feminist AF. Don't believe me? I have proof:

1. Fuck Fear: It's easy to get caught up in the intimidation game, but you have to let it go. You're up against hella dudes. Many of whom have been in the industry a lot longer than you. But guess what? You don't want to be "good for a girl," you want to be good. If you come into that presentation or team meeting all shy and meek and looking for validation because you think your shit sucks, they'll think your shit sucks too. Ya gotta lay it all out there. Be bold. No matter how great the idea, ya still gotta sell it.

2. Be You: Know your [female] voice. Develop your [female] voice. Do not lose your [female] voice. Meet all kinds of people. Learn how to think from different perspectives. Be a collaboration of all the best qualities of everyone you cross paths with. A mosaic personality. Just make sure you don't shy away from what makes your female perspective unique.

3. Hey Ladies: Okay, so this one is pretty obvious but - As advertisers, we are purveyors of cultural and social stereotypes. If you don't like something, change it. Write your characters differently, ignore the gender norms, break the molds of conservative and timid thought. We have the power to change the social perspective. Use it. Also, Cindy Gallop. Also, 3% Conference.

4. $: Be proactive. Be thoughtful. Be smart. Know your worth. If you want more money (and you deserve it), ask for it. You can't wait for your boss to evaluate your performance and decide they'll finally reward all your hard work with more money. It just won't happen. Do I really need to say more about equal pay for equal work? I thought not.

5. Passion is Everything: Be relentless. Be relevant. Push the envelope. Write in ways they never saw coming. Experience life. Guide the sheeple. Shake things up. Stay hungry. Make time for the people and things that inspire you. Keep fighting the good fight, ladies. Remind yourself why your female voice matters.

Weinstein ended with one more nugget that I wouldn't dare leave out. I think it applies to us freaks right now, but all the old pros out in the industry too. Maybe you're feeling burnt out, defeated. Maybe that side project you've been working on just doesn't have the legs you thought it did. Maybe your cousin just performed her first open heart surgery and you're thinking "what the hell am I doing with my life?" Well, remember this:

You're lucky. You get to wake up every day and be creative. You get to think of weird, funny, emotional ideas. You get to influence the social perspective. You get to transform the norm. Do not take this for granted. This is a great power. Use it for good.

Peace, love and EcoleSelfie

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Megyn Kelly is the Worst.

If you didn't see Megyn Kelly's interview with Stephen Colbert, here's an article. Read it. Now that you're up to speed, here's how I feel about it:

If you think you can be a strong female and place yourself on an equal playing field with men without using the term feminism and attacking the stereotypes head on, you are kidding yourself.

"Well, I don’t like that word: feminist, I think it’s alienating ... The best answer and the best way forward to young women out there who want to get ahead is work your tail off. Work harder than everybody. Be better than everybody else. Do better. Try harder." - Megyn Kelly.

Oh she makes it sound so easy, doesn't she? What planet does she live on and how can I become a resident?

What Kelly fails to address is that working harder means so much more when you are a woman. Men are competing with men. End of story. Women are competing with women, and men, who are already seen as more qualified just by virtue of having untidy, protruding, in-your-face genitalia. (Penises are gross, we all know it, lets just keep it real, aight?) Why do you think there are rules in co-ed rec leagues about how many women have to be on the field? How many women have to touch the ball for a TD to count? Because men don't see women as a viable threat to their game of life.

Kelly clearly doesn't understand that the word feminism should be alienating. It should threaten the status quo, it should shock the system, and it should be a slap in the face to anyone who doesn't think vaginas deserve equal playing time. That's the fucking point of the movement.

She goes on to say the word "connotes a harshness and almost a shrillness that I find unattractive." I'm sorry... what? Unattractive? Political movements are not pretty. Shrillness? Standing up for what you believe in, speaking your mind, taking on the system and abolishing antiquated gender roles is not a high-pitched squeal. It is a ferocious roar. Deep and visceral. Meant to shake the earth.

So, Ms. Kelly, to say that you can just keep your head down and do the best work you can do, and not use the word 'feminist' because it's alienating, is to say that every woman is on her own in this world. It might work for you, but what are you doing for the rest of womankind? You've got a microphone and a captive audience and you're really going to tell me to just buckle down and be the best I can be? To just tell myself "well, this is the way the world is so I better make the most of it." To tell myself that if I didn't get the promotion, or the credit for the work I did, or pay equal to my worth, that I just need to be better? With all due respect, Ms. Kelly, Fuck. That.

It's Time to Get Personal. (Omg. That's a headline.)

Hello, and welcome to my brain. Normally, I try to keep things pretty observational on this here blog, but I think it's time we take our relationship to the next level. And, if I am really blogging about my "2 year journey through portfolio school" as my little blurb says, y'all deserve some sincere introspection. Up until now, I haven't had any cause for self-doubt much at the Circus. Without strict comparison to others, which I avidly refrain from, I judged myself to be about on the same page as everyone else. Then Headlines came and smashed my face up against the 2-way mirror of life and said "see those kids? Huh? You see all those kids out there? They are better than you, punk!"

For those of you who don't know, headlines is a class in which we write headlines (duh) for a different product every week. 100 of them. Yeah, I'm sure those of you in the industry are like "puh-lease, I could do that in my sleep." Well I'm not in the industry, alright, so BACK OFF. Sorry, I'm sure you're very nice people. What I mean is, this is my first experience with quantity writing. And on top of that, we have to develop our own strategies and do our own research.

PAUSE - Before you call the wahhhbulance, let it be known: I understand the value of this and I appreciate the exercise and know that each week I am only getting stronger as I push myself through this. Our teacher, Greg Grantham is both honest and supportive, as are most teachers here, and I feel in capable hands. The circus is a wonderful place and I cannot stress that enough. - PLAY

I fucking suck at strategy. Like, beyond suck. Like, me trying to come up with consumer insight about a specific salsa means I eat the entire jar and then look at it and go, "yes, you are delicious. Okay, now what?" And thus, my headlines suffer. But even if I was a genius with strategy (which I hope to be after I complete Strategy class), the task of condensing a whole idea into a single sentence is mind-bottling. (Blades of Glory. Look it up.)

I am a writer's writer. I write using words. A lot of words. And I often repeat myself using a lot of other words to make a point about the fact that I am used to using a lot of words. In a short story, or even a poem, we get creative license to say as much or as little as we want to convey themes and emotions, develop plots and character arcs. Basically, I can write body copy for days. But a headline? A headline has to succinctly express a single idea. A good headline should be on strategy and provocative. A great headline should take the strategy and push it to the darkest corners of its box to find something completely unexpected. In one. Fucking. Sentence. See? Mind-bottling.

So there you have it folks. My first episode of "maybe I can't actually do this." But isn't it that self-doubt that pushes us into the dark abyss? To prove our little voices wrong? Well, I suppose that is what weeds out the weak ones. When you come to the edge of your confidence, and there is no more trail in front of you, and the guardrails on the steps to the peak are broken, will you climb on?

My answer is yes. Always yes. Even if I have to use the flashlight on my iPhone, dark abyss, I will make you my bitch.

 

#CircusForum: Katy Hornaday

I have found the Leslie Knope of Advertising. If you don't know what that means, allow me to explain. She is exhaustingly passionate about her career but has not given up family for it. She finds fun in the problems and is always exploring new ways of telling the same story. She is spunky and wildly articulate. Her intelligence is not shadowed by her charm and vice-versa. She is outspoken and ambitious with a radiating energy that is  ridiculously endearing. She is effortlessly warm and endlessly cool. She is the VP Creative Director at Barkley and her name is Katy Hornaday. In case you can't tell, I was pretty impressed with our #CircusForum today. Not only was Hornaday authentic and engaging, with a killer book, but she spoke about real industry issues that I know we are all thinking about. From "How can I make something cool with just a billboard?" (hint: get developers down to their skivvies.) to being a mom and a CD. "The truth is," Hornaday smiles, "Being a creative makes me a better mom (thinking up the most awesome craft projects that no other parents are thinking of), and being a mom makes me a better creative (more empathetic, better at time management)."

At the circus, we are schooled every day in looking at the same problem differently and exercising our creative muscles. What we don't talk about, is how to have a family, and still make a name for ourselves. How can we, as passionate people who will undoubtedly be working around the clock because we will never be satisfied, still find time for dating, let alone a marriage and a kid?

Keeping the work life balance, well, balanced, takes planning and focus, but when you have the right people in your life, it's not hard. Hornaday says she and her husband have weekly date-nights (adorable), and as far as her daughter goes, it's like this: "I always put my family first. Sometimes that means going to the big meeting so I can show my daughter what it means to be a strong woman (badass CD), and sometimes that means not going because her gymnastics meet is more important (badass mom)."

What did I tell you? The Leslie Knope of Advertising.

And now, something that Katy was more than happy to do, #selfie: IMG_0001

If it's easy, you're doing it wrong.*

With week one of my second quarter at Creative Circus officially over, I need to address one thing I am sick and freaking tired of hearing; "Oh, that class is gonna be easy." See also: "That class is a joke/waste of my time." Okay sure, some classes have a heavier workload than others. Sure, some may appear on the surface to be doodles and movies, but the truth is, you get out of it what you put into it. It's like working out. Yeah, you could drive to the gym, eat a PowerBar while you flip through People on the elliptical for 20 minutes, flirt with the front desk dude and drive home. Yeah, you can call that a work out. But who are you really fooling? If you just hung your head and said "myself..." then ding ding ding! We have a winner! (The prize is realizing the truth and getting your ass in gear.)

Now hopefully most of you are reading this thinking "duh, Casey," and just to be clear, prioritizing is different. Prioritizing is necessary. It's the only way to survive a quarter that would have otherwise turned you into a paper-cutting, bag-painting, nonsense-word-tag-writing-zombie from Sylvia's personal hell. Totally valid. But let's be real. Nothing at the Circus is a waste of our time. It's up to us to make it worth while. It's up to us to write 100 headlines and then go over them, realize they are all total burning, stinking, garbage and write 100 more. Doing the minimum is no longer enough.

I know, deep down, we all know this. So let's stop with the silly defense mechanisms and own our shit. There aren't enough hours in the day. We say a class is a "joke" because we know we don't have time to be the absolute best we can be in that particular area and it terrifies us, or because there are other classes that are riding our asses and if we only had those 3 hours to work on that other class then maybe...

This is hard.* If it wasn't, everyone would do it. But we got this.

Peace, Love & Anxiety.

To strip, or not to strip. That is (rarely) the question.

As second quarter commences at The Creative Circus I am reflecting on the lovely break I had with my family back home in Chicago. Specifically the heated debate we had over Christmas dinner about stripping. Yes. My family is that family.

The discussion argument we had was sparked by an offhand comment I made about living in Atlanta, "there are, like, a lot of strip clubs." What? There are. I'm not offended by this, I just find it funny. Funny strange, not funny haha. Mostly in the way that they are not designated to a specific area but mixed in with all the other taco joints, bike shops, portfolio schools, burger bars, and adult gift stores. Okay, I guess that last one makes sense.

The opinion breakdown went like this:

Dad: Mostly listened, made a few comments, against stripping as a career for his children, his opinion about stripping in general is still unclear. Though he is cool with the burlesque option. Cause you know, it's classy.

Stepmom & Sister: Anti-stripping. Don't think it's a respectable career, would not support anyone they know stripping, believe it is degrading and demeaning.

Brother: Would date a stripper if she agreed to stop stripping. (So, wouldn't date a stripper.)

Other Brother: Down with the cause. Wouldn't want his daughter to be a stripper, but if she came to him and told her that was the only thing that would make her happy he would support her. But he wouldn't go watch her perform because - gross.

Stepbrother: Also quiet, taking it all in. I do know he also wouldn't watch his daughter strip.

Now, all of these points are valid. To some extent, the stripping industry does reaffirm some of the horribly misogynistic behavior that men in America (and the rest of the world) are wont to display. But, doesn't the affirmation of men's behavior say more about the clientele than the stripper? There's talk of the exploitation of strippers because they are "owned" buy the club owners, who are mostly men, and used by the clientele who are also mostly men. But a) unlike prostitution they can (for the most part) leave whenever they want and b) a stripper is never made (for the most part) to do anything she doesn't want to do. Ever hear about the "no touching" rule? Also who is really exploiting who? Strippers are using their bodies to extract the baser instincts in men to get them to open their wallets. Yeah yeah, the club owners are getting rich while the strippers are making much less, but you can say that about any industry. I know, I know, "but those people aren't taking off their clothes to make money!" You forget, of course, all the models, or actresses, or Selena-Gomez-on-her-new-album-covers of the world who also get paid to take their clothes off. Sure, it's "art." But lets be real, sex sells. We all know and accept this. At least strippers are honest about it. Cause really, pretend you're an actress who takes her top of in a movie. You think men aren't thinking about you while they whack it because they are more focused on your art? Bitch, please.

Okay, that was a bit of a rant. All I'm saying is that making broad sweeping statements, nay, judgements, about an industry that you know nothing about isn't right. Especially when those statements are about an individual's personal choice or character. For the negative or positive. It's not cool to say that all strippers are empowered women because some of them aren't. Nor is it cool to say that all strippers are victims because some of them aren't. Of course there are women forced into the industry because of a lack of options, but I've listened to enough Savage Love Cast to know that there are strippers and sex workers who really enjoy their work. They don't identify themselves solely by their career (yes, it's a career). They feel they have self worth and they see past the negative attitudes surrounding the industry. They make good money and even though they may be judged about how that money is made, they have a comfortable life because of it. You know, like a lawyer.

Most of us have never even considered becoming a stripper (yes, a lot because of social stigma), and until you are completely aware, involved, engaged and submersed in the industry, you are not allowed to pass judgement. Period.

That's all I have to say about that.

Peace, love & panties.

Criticism: Shipping and Handling.

As the infamous #CircusPanel nears, I thought it only fitting to address the most difficult part of any creative business: criticism. Some people prefer to use the term "feedback" but I find it a wee bit passive aggressive. Kinda like saying "no offense" before you say something actually offensive. Lets just call a spade a spade, shall we? For those of you that don't know, #CircusPanel is basically our final exam. We mount all of our completed work, present it to 3-4 teachers and/or department heads, they look for 10 minutes, then they critique you for 10 minutes, then you leave. Hopefully not in tears. At least that's what I've heard. I'll keep ya posted.

While it is easy to assume that the critique you receive at Panel is the be all end all, or the most important or as some would say, the only one that matters, that is simply not true. Each and every bit of criticism you receive in your life, school or otherwise, solicited or thrust upon you, matters. What matters even more, is how you handle it.

That being said, it's always harder to take criticism about creative work. Not only because it's so subjective, but because unleashing creativity is like opening up a part of yourself. It can become very personal very quickly. Even if you're just writing a tag for Fancy Feast. So, before you get all butt-hurt and defensive because someone "doesn't like" your work (and you associate that with them not liking you), ask yourself these questions:

     1. Do like my work - really ask yourself that. Don't just respond with a yes because it took you three days to make a shitty headline. If you really like it, and think it works, and can defend it, then by all means, do. But when it really comes down to it, if you think it can be even marginally improved (which 99% of the time it can), then take the critique. This doesn't mean scrap your idea completely, but use the critique as a wrung on the ladder of your creative process. It's a stepping stone to getting you from decent to amazeballs.

     2. Who is the critique coming from - It's always easier, if not more painful, to take criticism from someone we respect. Whether it's a fellow student, teacher, or industry professional, we treat those opinions like gold. But when it comes from someone we think is garbage we tend to ignore it or get really upset about it and consider it a personal attack. Both of these reactions are unproductive. If you respect the critic, especially if they are your superior (boss, teacher, Lady Gaga) you might consider giving their critique more weight. If you don't respect them, listen to what they say, consider it honestly, then take it or leave it. Ignoring it does nothing for your personal growth. As for getting all bent out of shape about it, who cares what they say. You don't respect them anyway, remember?

     3. Is this critique unanimous - If you are hearing the same thing from a multitude of people, well, hate to break it to ya, but it's probably true. If it was just one jerk being a jerk, like I said before, listen to what they say, consider it honestly, then take it or leave it.

So that's that. Go handle criticism like a boss. As for shipping it out... Only say things that need to be said, talk about the work and only the work, and have a valid, constructive reason or better yet, a solution. "I don't like it" doesn't help anyone, and it makes you look like a big dumb dummy. Yeah, I went there.

'Til next time: Be kind. Rewind.

 

#CircusForum: Dave Canning

There has yet to be a #CircusForum - Yes, I have updated my hashtag. It seems that our friendly competitor, while a much younger program, has usurped our right to that tag. Luckily they are not hard to come by. As I was saying,

- There has yet to be a #CircusForum that has left me anything but inspired. Last Friday was no exception. Dave Canning, Executive Creative Director at 180 Amsterdam, is (drum roll please) a #CreativeCircus grad! Proving once again that there is indeed hope for us freaks after all. Doing work, and hilarious work I might add, for big time clients like ESPN, Southern Comfort, and The Climate Name Change, Canning displayed his own skewed world perspective in a brand-right and unpretentious way.

Like every #CircusForum, we were flooded with a plethora of quasi pep-talk advice. Everything from "Be authentically you" and "don't follow the money," to "only use a case study video if it is absolutely necessary." (Between you and me, I don't even know what the fuck a case study video is so... we're good in that department.) Let's not forget the ever essential "work harder than everyone else and be nice." Like yeah, we get it. Don't be a dick. noted.

I was noshing wheat thins and hummus, texting my boo about hotel reservations and halfway paying attention - not that what Canning was saying wasn't completely valid info, but... I had heard it all before - then I heard this: "I look for great print ads in student books." Wait... WHAT? Everybody shut up.

I thought print was dead. Truthfully. Who reads anymore? It's all GIFs and Clips and hilarious, non-sequitur  TV spots. But here's this #AdHero, ECD at one of the top agencies in the world, telling me (yes, he was talking directly to me) that he looks for print in student books and do you know why? Because a great print ad will translate into any other medium your little heart could possibly desire. YAS. #YASCanning.

A great print ad is the conceptual umbrella under which all your other media executions live. If your ad doesn't translate to web, TV, radio, outdoor, interactive, well then... it's not a great ad. #sorrynotsorry.

Thank you, Dave Canning, for restoring my faith in print work and giving validation to literally everything I've been working on this quarter. Coming soon to a Panel near you!

And now, #selfie:

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August: Osage County

I know I'm late to the party so I will not give a synopsis. I will not beg you to see it. I will simply say: Meryl. Fucking. Streep. And the Oklahoma plains. And the heat. And tortured souls galore. And Benedict Cumberbatch. And Julia goddamned Roberts! Just... the most honest family movie maybe ever made. Though "This is Where I Leave You" is pretty spot on as well. Tracy Letts, good GOD man. To be a nerve in your brain... just watching everything connect to create raw genius. And now a poem.

November: Fulton County | August: Osage County

I want to live on the oklahoma plains Wide open and hot as hell A head full of holes.

Beat up jeans A soul made of dust.

I’ll get by.

Messy hair And an iron heart covered in dents and scratches Welded so recklessly Aint one single thing getting inside

But the most beautiful pair of cowboy boots

Sewn together All of us Don’t apologize for nothing

I’ll get by

Good, kind and decent.

Bubble gum tastes like cigarettes and Xanax And green bean casserole

When everything’s gone; Disappeared.

I’ll get by.

Fields full of lavender Stretched out for miles And no place to go.

#FridayForum: Blair Dempster

Blair Dempster is an interesting guy... If you were at #fridayforum, you get that joke. If you weren't, well, I'll tell you when you're older.

Dempster is anything but interesting. He's humbly charismatic, modestly boastful and a plethora of other delicious contradictions. He drops the realness, with cred to back it up. --> Started in the Circus now he there (Jack Morton). Started in the Circus now he run a team there (He's an Associate Creative Director) <-- I commissioned Drake for that.

So yes, Dempster officially started his creative career at The Circus. Step one complete. He began as a copywriter, but "then something unexpected happened." The all mighty Sylvia said he would be "wasting his talents" if he continued as a copywriter. For those of you who don't get it, that would be like God herself telling you "yeah, you could be a decent human being, but wouldn't you rather be a Saint?" So he graduated as a Designer.

Dempster was kind enough to share 5 tidbits of info from 3 sections of his life as a creative. Once again, if you didn't go to #fridayforum, here are your Cliff's Notes (though I am going to explain his points with anecdotes related to my own personal experience and/or belief so if you are quizzed, I promise you will fail.):

Circus Lessons

Being uncomfortable doesn't mean it's wrong. I have to say, aside from physical discomfort, I very rarely feel "uncomfortable." I think it has a lot to do with my (sorry, Grandma) experience taking acid. It was vivid and visceral and beautiful and taught me that even in moments of deep and painful fear, there is beauty to be seen. I live by that mantra and have never regretted any sight, sound, taste, touch or scent. Pushing the limits and boundaries of our existence is what makes us human. Creativity would be stifled and art bland if we didn't make ourselves a little "uncomfortable" every once in a while.

Fuck "interesting." Get it now? Saying something is "interesting" is like saying a person "seems nice." It's a complete cop-out. It doesn't mean shit. Find a new adjective, people.

If you're not excited, no one else will be. I learned this in my high school drama class when I was 16. We were at the end of our musical theatre unit in which we had all been assigned various musical numbers to work on in small groups. Mine was "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" from the 1949 smash hit South Pacific. Yes, it's just as awful as it sounds. I was singing back up, though at the time I was convinced I could sing lead. When we were finished performing my teacher, Mr. Herbert, said "Casey, you were off-key the entire time, but you sang with such charismatic energy that I didn't even care!" Don't apologize for your work. Stand by it, stand up for it, love it, and there will be others that will love it right along with you. Even if you're off-key.

Less is more. I mean... duh.

Own your happy accidents. When I was at University of Iowa, I took a lot of writing classes. In one such class, poetry to be specific, I went to see my TA during office hours to get his feedback on a couple of poems I had written outside of class. He was looking over one and said "oh wow, this is great, I love this 'pre-formed moans' line." Turns out I had misspelled "performed." He will never know. Unless he reads this. Chances are slim.

First Job Lessons

Don't over-look the "fly overs." There are a lot of amazing agencies that live in smaller cities in between the saturated "Ad Capitols." Agencies that will allow you to do creative, provocative, challenging, cutting-edge stuff. Agencies that will help you grow your book and your reputation. LA, NY, CHICAGO... psssshhhh. Overrated. Except Chicago. Chicago's the best.

Build a book with work you love. That is, work that you are excited about. Because if you don't love it, how the hell any body else gonna love it? (Yes, I am paraphrasing RuPaul. Get at me.)

The best person for the job doesn't always get hired. Truth Bomb. This is a business of people. Be likeable, be memorable, do great work and then do something different. What can you bring to the table besides your book? People get hired. Not books.

It's not you. It's me. Just because an agency doesn't hire you, doesn't mean they don't want to. There are a lot of other factors that go beyond whether or not they like you or your work. Mostly money.

Informational interviews are your best friend. If I have to explain this... you need to set one up.

Professional Creative Lessons

We're not artists. Truth Bomb numero dos. That is a harsh reality that we all need to embrace. Be an artist outside your agency. Develop your film, paint your canvases, write your words, sculpt your clay. Bottom line, we are sales people. What we are selling should be bigger and better and more badass than anything out there, and if we do it right, and we do it well, we have the opportunity to become artists, but that is not what we inherently are by trade.

Creativity is part of being human. Just by being alive and waking up everyday and putting on freakin clothes in the morning we are creative. We are chosing to dress, act, play, interact in certain ways. Some more carefully than others. Our craft is about understanding that creativity and channeling it into something relatable and unique.

There are no new ideas. By virtue of the fact that I am writing this blog right now and putting my spin/personality onto a presentation that was already given I am illustrating this point.

Not all agencies focus on creativity. Thrice Bombed by the Truth. It's up to you to decide what kind of work you want to do and to find the right agency that supports that work.

There are lots of ways to "refresh" your creativity. Read my Creative Constipation post for jumping off points.

Welp. I think that about sums it up. Great #FridayForum as always. Stay sassy, y'all!

Aaannnnd #selfie (I really need to get better at these.)

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#FridayForum: Advisory Board

Quarter 1, week 3, Advisory Board (a group of recruiters from shops all over the country including, but certainly not limited to, Leo Burnett, Goodby, Weiden + Kennedy, Hook, and the list goes on.) I'm sorry I couldn't write fast enough to get all their names and agencies down. I was too busy listening to all the awesome stuff they had to say. Today was an opportunity for us circus freaks to ask specific questions about getting hired. Questions like, "What is the biggest mistake you see in books?" or "What is the quickest way to lose your interest in a book?" and the brilliant, "What is the one thing we should be learning in school and how can we best show that we've learned it." What all these questions really boiled down to is this: "Besides good work, what can we do to set ourselves apart, be remembered, and get hired?"

As I interpreted it, these are the top 5 responses/suggestions:

  1. Case study videos are the effing worst. If you absolutely must use them, lead the reader into the video with the work that preceded it. Let the recruiter decide for themselves if they want to watch it, no video ambushes. Keep them short (45 seconds or less) and entertaining.
  2. Play to your strengths. If you can't code your own site, don't. Your book is about showing the absolute best parts of you. If that means using Squarespace to create a clean and well-functioning website, do it. If you write really great spots for TV but can't figure out a way to execute them well, don't include a shitty video, just include the script. If the idea and concept are strong, don't muddy them with poor execution. That also means that if you need to get an art director, designer, coder, to help you with a flawless execution of your idea, do it.
  3. Be authentically passionate. It's incredibly important to put your personality in your book, but you have to make sure it is your true and current personality. If you started a blog and only posted to it twice three years ago, that is not a side project. If you painted in undergrad but you haven't picked up a brush since, you are not a painter. On the other hand, if you are a Copywriter who also makes your own furniture, don't leave that out because you don't think it pertains to your field. If you are an Art Director who also writes science fiction poetry, include it. Show as much authentic creativity as possible. Learn who you are and be able to articulately, passionately, confidently and humbly express your voice.
  4. Do your research. The last thing you want to do is show up to an interview after sending out blanket emails to agencies all over the country and have absolutely zero idea why you want to be there. Getting a job is not about getting a job. It's about finding the shop where you will thrive. A shop that's culture and body of work speaks to your creative voice. Once you find where you want to be, and why you want to be there, it will be easier to stay tuned into their progress. Nerd out about them. Learn everything you possibly can about what they do and how they do it.
  5. Keep in touch. After speaking with a recruiter, maybe they don't have any openings at the moment, but that doesn't have to be the end of it. As long as you are bringing something new to the table (complimenting the agency on a recent award, new work in your book, new side project), it is okay to stay in touch with them. It is not okay to pester, hound, or suffocate them with weekly emails. Every 4-6 weeks though, a quick email to keep them updated and remind them you're still out there is a great way to stay front of mind should a new position open up.

So that's what I took from this weeks #fridayforum. Stay tuned and don't worry, I promise the return of the #selfie next week.

Cracking Creative Constipation

So, you've reached the point that you literally can't get anything else out. Try as you might to transfer all the ideas in your brain to that blank canvas, nothing comes. It gets so bad that you begin to wonder if there are even any ideas left. You start to believe you never had any in the first place. The notion that you ever had any talent at all becomes a mirage, fading further and further away until it dissolves into the vast and unwelcoming desert of self-doubt. This is creative constipation.

I use this term because despite all your self-deprecating thoughts, you do have ideas. Solid ones. Good ones. Even great ones, buried deep down in your brain somewhere. Ya gotta drink some metaphorical prune juice and get that shit out. Too visual? #sorrynotsorry

There are a million ways to get the juices flowin', but in my experience, they all boil down to one critical tactic: DO SOMETHING ELSE. What to do? I literally don't care. Like, I actually couldn't even begin to tell you how much I don't care what you do as long as it's not what you are already doing. Because what you are currently doing is clearly not working and staring at that blank space more isn't going to suddenly unlock the magic. Round peg square hole and all that. You don't just keep slamming the pieces together until they fit. They won't fit. Ever. I promise. So... all: "Do something else!" Exactly.

I know a lot of creatives do not have the luxury of spare time so, "doing something else" may seem like a foreign concept. Unfortunately that mind-set can often be the main cause of creative constipation (I should trademark that...) and the pressures we put on ourselves can diminish our creative energy supplies more than anything. The following is a list of 10 things to do that are different from what you are doing that take less than 20 minutes:

  1. Take a shower. For those of you that know me, this may be a funny one. I hate taking showers. Like so much. But truly, get in there! Put on some music. Massage your... scalp. Pretend you're at a spa in the steam room or something. Plus the cold air when you get out will awaken your senses.
  2. Go for a walk. Music or no music, it really doesn't matter, just get outside. And please, none of this "It's too cold/hot/dark/sunny/windy/rainy/tornado-y." Just get the ef out there. Pay attention to your surroundings and let your mind wander.
  3. Dance. Not a good dancer? To quote a genius, "I literally don't care." Put on your favorite song and just move, dammit!
  4. Paint. I'm partial to abstract finger painting, but ya know, do yo thang. Unless what you were originally trying to do was paint... then, um... don't?
  5. Write. Free verse stream of consciousness, please!
  6. Talk to someone who has literally no idea what you are working on. It takes your mind off what you are working on and makes you focus on something or someone else. If you chose to talk to them about what you are doing, ask for their opinion or feedback, and Listen. To. Them. Whatever you do, don't just complain about the work you are trying to do. That will only create more pressure on you and then you'll be right back where you started.
  7. Get a change of scenery. Move your workspace. If you are in a place where there are a lot of distractions, go to a library or home. If you are at home or a library, move to a coffee shop or a bar. After all, "variety is the spice of life." - Snoop Dogg.
  8. Take a coffee nap. Drink a cup of coffee. Take a 20 minute nap. Wake up. Shake off. Jump back in.
  9. Stretch. Turn your focus inward and listen to your body instead of your brain. Are you sore? Tight? Stiff? Loosen your body to loosen your mind. 
  10. Read. Article, poetry, novel... my blog. You know, intelligent contributions to society.

Feel free to post comments about what helps you unlock that creativity game. This is just one girl's opinion. Also, eat something. 

Peace, y'all.

#FridayForum

Quarter 1, Week 2, Clarence Bradley: ACD/Writer at 22Squared "You cannot call yourself a creative person and be a basic bitch." #preach

Clarence Bradley (who is ridiculously engaging and I could have listened to him speak for another 2 hours) laid it out for us like this: Basic bitches make basic advertising. Scratch that. Basic bitches make basic art.

Beyond making ads, (which in reality is just something creative people do to exercise their creative muscles and make money to support their creative endeavors) creativity cannot endure in a person who does not venture beyond the piece of the world they live in. That doesn't mean you can't wear Uggs and drink pumpkin spice lattes and "love fall," just maybe throw in a few trips to Chinatown by yourself, or go to that Puerto Rican street festival as well. Make a conscious effort to talk to, engage with, experience, taste, listen to and touch things and people. Yes. Touch people, physically and emotionally. Be aware and take it in, absorb it, never assume you know what a person means or where they are coming from. I guarantee you, you don't. This will allow you create work that goes beyond "solid" and ventures into "good" or even "great."

"Solid" work, according to Bradley, is work that is generally like-able, can be acknowledged as an ad, but does little else. It's basic. Your mom will like it. It's references are to other ads or public domain, easy to understand pop-culture. A book of solid work will get you a job, make you a lot of money, even get you promoted, but it won't win any awards, it won't inspire anyone, and it will barely be remembered 10 seconds after it airs.

"Good" work is a step up. Good work requires thought. Good work offers a fresh perspective and invokes #allthefeels in viewers and jealousy in other ad peeps. Good work might wins some awards, but good is still not great.

"Great" work is full of layers, and reveals itself the more you see it. Great work is memorable, well thought out, carefully and meticulously executed. Great work attracts people. Most importantly, great work is what makes you proud to be a part of this industry.

To bump up your work from solid to good, even great, aside from practicing your craft, Bradley laid out some tips. (We circus freaks love tips.) Here they are:

  1. Read more - read things that interest you. Doesn't have to be Hemingway or Faulkner. Just read for christ's sake! Read!
  2. Constantly be making things - Your creative muscles will develop atrophy. Exercise them.
  3. Surround yourself with people who are better than you 
  4. Study others work habits
  5. Discover your weaknesses. Strengthen them. - As millennials and young creatives we get really attached to our work and defensive when it is criticized. We tend to blame others and have a "me first" attitude. Those are weaknesses. Lets strengthen them.
  6. Listen when other people are talking. Be open to their words and experiences. - Like i said earlier, never assume you know where someone is coming from. Even people you know really really well. You don't know, trust me, and assuming you do know shuts you off from a whole realm of insight and perspective.
  7. Ask questions 
  8. Don't complain
  9. Never be satisfied. 

Bottom line: experience all you can as much as you can as often as you can. Don't be afraid of people who are not like you. Embrace, nay, seek out difference and change. Don't be a #basicbitch.

Well there you have it. Another delightful installment of #FridayForum.

And #selfie

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#FridayForum

Quarter 1, Week 1, John Matejczyk Because this is my first Friday Forum post, I will take two seconds to explain what Friday Forum is before I dive in: Friday Forum is a mandatory seminar for all Creative Circus students. Each week a prominent industry figure is brought in to talk to all of us freaks about their journey, give us insight and answer questions.

Starting his career in sweet home Chicago, John made his--- oh who am I kidding, I'm not a biographer! John Matejczyk. Look him up.

Matejczyk, as many creatives, is engaging, dry-witted, and full of insight. He is also youthful, ridiculously humble and modest, with a unexpected air of progress. He's been in, and out, and back in again, and out again, of agencies all over the country which turned him round and round until he landed in San Francisco at Muh-Tay-Zik|Hof-Fer. But he has yet to stop moving. Like a spinning top, he stays in constant motion while planted in one place.

Not only has Matejzcyk produced outstanding work before the creation of his own agency, but he has lead a fearless team to create hilarious (and sweet) work for stellar clients like Netflix, Golden State Warriors, and Zoosk as well as insightful, interactive, and downright powerful (not to mention award winning) work for Made In A Free World: Slavery Footprint. To me, the latter is the most impressive. Everyone loves a funny ad, but to be able to create a campaign that is interactive, engaging and an honest call to action for a company that does truly inspiring work is something worth talking about.

Ultimately though, #FridayForum isn't about the guest speaker. Okay, it is, because they are #AdHeros who inspire students like me to think bigger, and in color, but what #FridayForum is really about... well I don't know that I can sum it up in words, but I'll try:

Sitting in the theater, amongst all the other freaks, I felt an invigorating energy. Like we were all brothers and sisters, and our dad called a family meeting to tell us about all the wonderful things we are going to accomplish in our lives. I know that sounds super duper cheesy cheese-balls, but it's true. It's not a lecture or a Q&A. It's a conversation. Granted, one person seems to be doing most of the talking, but that doesn't mean both sides aren't actively participating. #FridayForum is a glimpse into our future as creatives. It's a chance to see all the possibilities from new perspectives.

Each forum will be a different view from a unique window. Because this was my first, my view was of the other freaks in the room. Of course Matejczyk was full of tips and guiding principles, which I diligently noted in my sketchbook, but today my sightline was focused on the exclusive opportunity in front of us Circus freaks, and the crack in the door that we are going to push wider and wider until we run right through it.

Thank you, and #selfie.

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"Your Career Starts Now."

"Today is the first day of your career as a creative." - Dan Balser. Creative Circus Department Head; Advertising. Say what!? Yes. This is the first day of my career as a copywriter. The choices we make as circus freaks, the attitudes we wish to adopt, the work ethic we display and the relationships we build with each other will stay with us for the rest of our lives in the industry. As they say, "work hard and don't be a dick."

Andrew Hamilton, Production Methodologies, told us in class today that he knew a girl who not only brought her cat to school (weird) but, was a "manipulative bitch who stole peoples' work." That was 10 years ago. Clearly that reputation stuck. I'd be surprised if she was doing anything worth writing home about. People don't want to work with shitty people. End of story. Be nice, work hard, work well and you'll be okay. Obviously you should have some talent in there too. That probably helps.

In our AD and Copywriter "break-out sesh," Dan and Jen Mageau (Creative Circus Department Head; Art Direction) stressed five major points. Well, one major point and four supporting points.

#1 Major Point: Your Career Starts Now. I know, I know, I started with that but, It's a major point. I repeat things that are important. Or funny. Or important. Deal with it.

#2: This is not a reality TV show. My siblings and I used to sit around the TV Thursday nights with my dad eating Domino's and watching Survivor. (If you don't know what survivor is... #Icanteven) Every week we watched as contestants endured physical turmoil to complete ridiculous tasks to win food or money or modern luxuries. We became attached to these people and I think I actually teared up when one of my favorites was voted off. It was engaging and thrilling and like nothing we had ever seen before. The Circus engaging and thrilling and like nothing we have ever seen before, but The Circus is not Survivor. No one gets "voted off the Island." No one loses because someone else wins. We will endure physical (mostly the Art Directors, God bless 'em) and mental turmoil. We will compete against each other and feel that pang of jealousy or frustration when someone else wins that award. But that is not the goal of the program. The best classes are the ones that work to build each other up, not tear each other down. Support, love, understanding, hard work, all of that Kumbaya crap.

#3: Nobody's going to tell you what to do. Ever again. Now that isn't entirely true. The Circus is not a free-for-all of creative apes running around throwing sharpies and X-Acto blades hoping it creates something. We have assignments, we have guidelines, we have rules. What we don't have is someone holding our hands telling us exactly how they want us to complete a project. It's like a puzzle, and we've got all the pieces, but we can't look at the front of the box. And we might have pieces of a different puzzle mixed in. And an almond. But it's our job now to take some initiative and make something, anything, out of what we've been given. Then do it again. And again. until we create something great.

#4: Nobody's the boss of anybody. Art Directors do not "answer" to copywriters, nor do copywriters "answer" to ADs. They both answer to The Idea. Equal labor, equal time. When we are done with our words, copywriters, our job is not over. Get coffee, make sandwiches, pull up funny cat videos to keep morale high. Words are easy, ideas are hard. Good ideas come from multiple brains. Tiny pieces of creative spilling out of different faucets pooling together to create something truly unique and awesome. Like a puzzle. (See what I did there?! eh!?)

#5: Make it. Now. Our books are happening. They will come together (we hope). But not everything we do in our classes will make it into our books and not everything in our books will get us a job. DO SOMETHING ELSE. NOW. Side projects (Surprise! This is my side project!) where we show our creative personality are what will set us apart from all the other creative thinkers who do exactly what we do. Dan made a podcast. He didn't have to, but he did. And it's awesome. DGMS. It's on the book of faces too. It's time to personalize our packages. Self-branding, if you will. What better way to do that than to take advantage of all the resources at The Circus. Most importantly, our fellow freaks.

So here it is. A culmination of my first day as a copywriter. I can say that, 'cause Dan said it. I can repeat it 'cause it's important. My career starts now. Wish me luck!

Scratch that, wish us luck!

The Malice of Alice

Earlier this evening, or I should say yesterday evening as it is currently 1:16am, I had the pleasure of attending a gallery event at The Circus. The beautiful Kelly Lewis and her equally stunning daughter Alice, worked as a bad-ass duo to create haunting, captivating, charming, alluring and downright mind-bending photographs. Alice had more poise and life in her eyes than I've seen in most adults, and I watch a lot of ANTM. She seemed to look straight through the lens with such grace, even as live tarantulas crawled in her hair. (I'm not joking, look it up.) Capturing everything from Margot Tenenbaum to Joan of Arc, they created images that truly transported the viewer. Fixed them there, suspended in time, real or fictional. Until they finally got the courage to look away. I could rant and rave for pages upon pages about how amazing the work was, but I wouldn't do it justice. Please, please, check it out for yourselves. Buy something. Support their art and their story. Alice was adopted by Kelly and her husband when she was 7. Not a dewy baby, not a toddler with eyes aglow, a 7 year old girl with a mind and opinions, thoughts and a voice to speak them all with. Do you know how rare that is!? Do you know what a brave and courageous commitment that is?! To hear them speak about the work they do and the inspiration they bring to each other is truly, well, inspiring.

I am now more thrilled than ever to attend The Circus. To be a part of a community that grows and nurtures and prunes and primes it's students to create work that not only resonates, it thrills... again, I have no words.

I have a feeling I'm going to be wordless a lot over the next two years.

Thank you Kelly and Alice. With all my heart.

The Day Before Day One (Orientation)

I'll keep this short-ish and sweet:I F****** love The Circus. You know when you meet a whole giant group of new people and you always pick that one person you'll just hate? Like for no reason you just hate them because... I'll let Louis CK explain.

Annnnyway. I couldn't hate anyone. I couldn't. I like, legit tried. Okay, not that hard because it would actually be terrible to hate someone you have to work so closely with but I think y'all know what I mean. Sitting in that theater space for the first time. Meeting all of these beautiful people with truly unique stories, shaking with excitement and anxiety. Cold-sweats and pit-stains galore. I think we all saw something of ourselves in each other. That is an incredible feeling.

Everything we have done in our lives, personal and professional, have prepared us for this adventure, whether we realize it or not. There is something of a common thread running through all of us that will only knit us tighter over the next 2 years. A common thread that will never unravel. A thread made of titanium, or diamond dust, or... Unicorn mane.

I'm at a loss for words. I've found my home. It's in The Circus.