Recently I was out of town on shoot and young Creative Director asked me a question that caught me off guard. She had a growing impression at their agency that most of the more senior creative staff, with all their experience, were no longer as engaged in the effort to create the best work. She considers that most of them are in the latter half of their careers and that's what happens. Her question was how she could avoid doing that? She surprised me because, why are you asking me? Then I remembered I'm no longer an early 30s something photographer bounding through the creative world all fresh and new.
I understand her observation is general and subjective, but this is an industry fueled on young ideas, young energy. Burn-out is real, and playing a relevant role late in your career is often the exception. Pushing your work and looking past the solutions that won awards a decade ago is not easy. Pushing your well-established boundaries is threatening, unsettling, risky, and it might not work at all. Also considering yourself relevant might be like calling yourself humble, when you decide you are, you probably aren’t. Is there a way to stay fresh and engaged?
We discussed the issue for a couple of hours and concluded there is no formula. There are many great examples of creatives who, without copying trends, keep fresh work coming. The only common theme is that they set the bar high, and work hard for their results. In the end they have an identifiable evolution in what they created. Clearly not a road for everyone, and life certainly has more to offer than this industry. But, if it remains your goal to be engaged, continue learning, stay inspired, take risks, and work hard.
A great example of staying engaged is Pablo Casals, who as a legendary cellist is said to have practiced scales every day, including the day he died. Or as Jason Musante, Content Lead at co:collective said, "Always be in Beta."
By Keith Lanpher