Dodging the Red-Hot Poker

One fine day a creative director in a big corner office downtown kindly agreed for me to come show him my work. Hooray! So I came to his office and showed him my work. Frankly, the work was bloody awful. All of it. Imagine the worst, cheesiest…crap. Only far worse than that. The creative director was a nice guy. You could tell he didn’t think much of my work, though he was far too polite to blurt it out. Finally he quietly confessed that it wasn’t doing much for him.

“Well, the target market is…” I was rambling, “…quite conservative, so I thought I’d better tone it down…”

“You can tone it down once you’ve gotten the job and once the client comes after your ass with a red-hot poker and tells you to tone it down,” he laughed. “Till then, show me the toned up version.”

The entirety of the above is an excerpt from one of my favorite books of late called “Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity” by Hugh MacLeod. Read it. And join me in dodging that red-hot poker…

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23 Responses to Dodging the Red-Hot Poker

  1. Alex DiFiori August 28, 2009 at 1:27 am #

    My plan when it comes to meeting new clients is don't bother crafting a portfolio for them. Just let my best images speak for themselves, regardless (not entirely of course) of what the client is looking to do with you. Amazing work proves you have amazing talent, and that's what clients want.

    When it comes to reading about creativity, I generally prefer fiction over fact.

    You want some crazy ideas, go read "Stranger in a Strange Land," I'm only half way through and I've probably jotted down a dozen shoot concepts that popped into my head while reading it.

    Getting a decent night's sleep helps too.

  2. Alex DiFiori August 28, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    BTW, thanks for the book suggestion

  3. TC August 28, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    I think the most important think I learned from a book, was probably Kent Becks book on Extreme Programming. Yeah, a book about how to mange software projects…

    Anyway, the thing learned, was… "Never try to look beyond the horizon".

    Trying to pack a portfolio, to match what you think a potential client will like? Not going to work, unless you actually know what they will like. If you don't know – don't try to look over the horizon.

    There's so much you could be doing right now – stop worrying about things you can't change…

  4. Nicholas Collister August 28, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    I picked up two books written by Paul Arden. "It's not how good you are, It's how good you want to be: and "Whatever you think, Think the opposite" The books are short and have some great images to go along with the ideas being talk about. I read them when ever I have been feeling non creative or bored. They have been a great help when times feel a bit stale even on a non creative level.

    "Never try to look beyond the horizon". That is a great statement TC.

  5. Car Blog August 28, 2009 at 6:17 am #

    I need to get that book asap. Now and now.

  6. Photobby August 28, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    More evidence of shooting what you love and letting the folks who want that kind of thing come to you.

  7. Carl August 28, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    I agree with Photobby. Shoot what you love.
    The challenge is to not shoot what is most trendy but rather shoot what gives you most passion to create your masterpiece.

  8. William Wallace August 28, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    Just picked it up, already read the first chapter. I'm pumped.

  9. matt s August 28, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    Paul Arden's books, "It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World's Best Selling Book" and "Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite" are always at the top of the list for me.

  10. robert gallagher August 28, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    thanks for the book suggestion, my similar fave of late is "The war of art' by Steven pressfield. there's one particularly great anecdote (as a Hollywood screenwriter) in there about just keep pushing forward with meetings, event though it seems your getting nowhere

  11. Serge Van Cauwenbergh August 28, 2009 at 10:43 am #

    The book is awesome, I just read it recently!

  12. ezra August 28, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    I purchased the book a couple weeks ago because of the line merit can be bought passion cant. I'm on one of those stages of life where i needed a little kick in the right direction.

    great book, you can open it up and just by reading the bold titles you can be inspired.

  13. Holly Mayes August 28, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Another one, more about marketing yourself – "Selling the invisible- A field guide to modern marketing" by Harry Beckwith. It's a good one, with anecdotes you can relate to.
    I am already ordering the other one.

  14. Matthew Botos August 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have let myself be talked out of putting this shot on my business card.

    What's the vote of this marketing and photo savvy crowd?

  15. Sinuhe Xavier August 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Sometimes it's good to fight back with your own red hot poker. The client may despise you for a minute, but they usually come around once they have seen the work.

  16. Steve Kalman August 29, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    I just finished watching a 20 minute video on (ted -dot- com) on the topic of motivation, creativity and incentives.

    In it, he shows empirical evidence that motivation (and creativity) will not and does not come from incentive but does give some clues as to where to find and how to foster it.

    Here's the full link, broken up so the protective software doesn't swallow it.

    www (dot)ted (dot) com
    (slash) talks (slash) dan_pink_on_motivation (dot) html

    By the way, I recommend visiting the ted site and just hitting the top-ten list, then picking one or two that interest you. Fair warning, though: they're addictive.
    (Try the one on how twitter is changing the world.)

  17. Toni H. August 31, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    Hey Chase, just wondering….Do you have a top 10 books regarding art and creativity? Or, just 10 books that rocked your world? Thanks.

  18. rushingray September 3, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Ordered it…Can't wait to read it.

  19. Scott MacKenzie September 7, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    The Book arrived Saturday!
    Diggin' it!


  20. Serenity Photo September 22, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    Dude, I am quite the fan of your work, and thank for everything you and your guys 7 gals do in the studio. Sweet work! Listen I do have a favour to ask of you and that is the spread the word of this. I am here in Toronto shooting and coaching for this show called the Battle of the Blades, and well I was wondering if you do us the honor of helping to spread the word for my wife who is one of the stars in the show. She is the Underdogg, but hot as hell! Yahoo 4 me! This is what I have written below. If you can, that would be amazing! And Brother if you ever need a gear hauler let me know I am your man! Thanks a million in advance and keep up the great work! Ur the best! All of you! Cheers!


    Check this out, one cool show that is starting in Canada Oct 4th, called the Battle of the Blades. Staring a lot of great Canadian talent, best yet is my wife Jodeyne is skating in it with Ken Daneyko from the New Jersey Devils. If you will, become a fan of theirs because they are trying to win $100,000 for the charity called (The Foundation Fighting Blindness). Thanks so Much and hope you become a fan of theirs. You can sing up from all over the world so please don't be a stranger! See you there!

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