Repost: Inspiration: Sites That Spark Creativity

BABY FOOD FOR CREATIVES: Inspiration: Sites That Spark Creativity: One of the best things about working in Advertising is that gallivanting across the whole world wide web isn't slacking off, it's pa...

50 Resources That Will Make You An Awesome Writer

Here are 50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills. As usual, this isn't just to
benefit writers - all you art directors and designers have can learn too.

50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills

Effective writing skills are to a writer what petrol is to a car. Like the petrol and car relationship, without solid skills writers cannot move ahead. These skills don’t come overnight, and they require patience and determination. You have to work smart and hard to acquire them. Only with experience, you can enter the realm of effective, always-in-demand writers.

You're Underselling Yourself

Bios, resumes, profiles and self-evaluations. You're going to have so, so, so many times
where you're going to have to talk about yourself. Times where you have to talk about why you're great, all the great things you've done and why you deserve to be hired/promoted/given more money.

This is a challenge for some people (ahem, me, ahem) because it feels awkward to boast and talk about yourself in that way. It feels awkward to say "I'm awesome! Look at all the fantastic things I've done!"

But you know what, if you're great, you're great. And if you're great, you deserve to be hired/promoted/givien more money. So you have to speak up.

Funny things is though, the minute you start putting it all on paper, on something someone else will read, it feels like you're 

The Truth is I'm Great

Finding that sweet spot of talking yourself up enough to not be boasting is quite a

You don't want to undersell yourself, you don't want to oversell yourself and you definitely don't want to turn anyone off.

It's a delicate balance and one that will serve you well throughout your career.

Here are a few tips from previous posts:

Past Me Gets It

Funny thing happened recently - I searched* my blog to look for advice.

Luckily, Past Me is kinda smart and super helpful when Present me is kind of a mess.

I kicked myself pretty hard for being a dummy. I know that stuff. Past Me was on the ball. Present Me needs to get her life together ASAP.

Then I was reminded of the fourth lesson of the Four Agreements: Always do your best. 

Your Annoying Office Habits

There's always that one coworker... that one person that just brings out the inner Stanley in you.

You try to fight it. To hide it. To smile and grin and bear it. But Lord knows your eyes just start creeping to the side all on their own...

I've written before on How To Annoy Your Coworkers and How to be an Asshole (know the signs before it's too late). I recently came across this article below that I'm immediately to adding to the list of Things To Avoid Doing Ever.

As you read through, take a moment and make sure none of these apply to you. Before you go pointing fingers at someone else for sniffling all day or playing their music too loud, check yourself. 

If you can't figure out who the annoying coworker is in your office, chances are, it's you. 

Inspiration: Making Up Is Hard To Do

Love means never having to say you're sorry. Advertising, however, has a lot of apologising.

Brands want to build a relationship with people, and just like real relationships, there are going to be rough patches. And break ups. And make ups.

There are so many things that can turn people off from a brand - a bad customer service experience, poor product quality, a change in policy, an offensive ad or something as little as a change in the packaging or logo. (Or is that just me?) 

Then brands have to do the ultimate "please forgive me" crawl and beg customers to like them again.

Mistakes Your Mouth Makes

Yes, let's just blame it on your mouth. Your brain knows the right thing, but your mouth - so defiant and unruly - just goes and saying things however it pleases. Rude. 

Let's have a Come-To-Jesus with your mouth today to help it get its act together. 

Starting off, make today the last day you say "irregardless" however. It my greatest fear that so many people are going to start saying the word incorrectly that Webster will add the incorrect usage to the dictionary and then all hope will be lost. All. Hope. Lost. 

It's one thing when "sexting" gets added, but "literally" now meaning "figuratively" is literally a tragedy. 

Talk how you want to talk with your friends and family, but at work, especially in written communications, kindly get your shit together.

Don't Make This Mistake

Most mistakes in advertising are pretty expensive. Having to change something last minute, especially after it's gone to the printers, radio or TV stations can cost thousands of dollars. Having to redo something - tens of thousands.

Even seemingly small mistakes like writing something as $9.98 instead of $9.99 can put a major dent in profits. (1 million people paying 1 million pennies less really adds up.)

But the biggest, most devastating mistakes are those where you don't get any pennies at all. When people get mad about the content of your ads and threaten to boycott you. 

Small Misteaks Make A Big Deference

Typos and cut-and-paste errors are as common as flies. No matter how much I try to keep a hawk's eye out, sometimes those sneaky little bastards sneak through.

Especially when I'm in a rush.
Especially when I'm stressed.
Especially when I'm tired.
Especially when I'm tired, stressed and in a rush.

Sometimes it's small things like they instead of the, other times, it's big things like misspelling a product name or writing cannot when you meant can. Things that can cost lost of money.
(Check out this very expensive mistake someone at Macy's made.)

Four things to do to make sure what you've written makes sense:

Honest Post: Creative Recovery

Over a year ago, my boss complimented me and said I recover well. In turn, I complimented

myself on being a superb actress.

I can't honestly tell you I bounce back from disappointments, failures and getting lost in the trenches well. Or quickly. I put my all into every thing I do. (Well, most - there's that one part of me that is daydreaming.) Even if I think it's a boring project, or an inane client request, or an Olympics-level exercise in futility. I may fuss sometimes (mostly to myself. And my partner. And my friends.) But I have a certain standard I try to keep myself to. And if I don't do my best, that's not good enough. I never want to give up or give in. I try my hardest to work things out.

But it's not that easy in advertising. You know that saying "You win some you lose some"? Here it's more like 30-70 than it is 50-50.

There have been times I work 10 hours days 10 days straight - writing, rewriting, then writing again. Only to hear:

Make a Mistake List

Last week's post about How to Get Ahead at Work had six great tips to help your career - number six was "Reframe Failure...Reflect on the lesson the failure offers, making adjustments accordingly, then climb back on your horse!"

Fantastic advice.

That's pretty difficult to follow through with.

We all make mistakes. And we all beat ourselves up. And we all think everyone took extensive notes, photos and video of your mistake and pull them up on their phones every night before they go to bed, laughing and shaking their heads at you. (No? No one else thinks that? Oh. Never mind) 

The good news is, we all can recover. And we all can get better.

This article has one amazingly great tip to help you acknowledge, work through and learn from your mistakes: Make a mistake list. Here's how it works.

How To Get Ahead At Work

Getting the job isn't the end of the line. Once you get the job, you have to keep the job. And then you have to get a better job (whether internally or externally.) Your work is never done. 

Love this article that lists 6 Tips on How to Get Ahead in Your Career. 

It even includes relevant books to read that go into more info. All the tips are really great, but this one really stood out to me:

What Your Book Should Look Like

What are people looking for when they look at a junior's book? Creative and strategic thinking. Crisp and professional execution. Ads and ideas that look like they should be in a magazine tomorrow morning, on TV tonight or in the app store right now.

The work in your portfolio needs to look real. Even if you made it up. It doesn't matter if you didn't actually work with the Crest client and got that ad produced in real life, your work needs to look like it could.

real real ad from Oct 2013
But the thing is, it just can't be real real. Confusing I know. But "real real" is legit basic ads like emails, banner ads, Facebook posts or website updates. The unsexy, real-life ad work that you'll have to do when you get hired, but that you don't need to actually show in your book.

It's kinda like how gymnasts don't show that they can do cartwheels when they go to tryouts - they go all out and show the amazing flippy-jumpy-twisty things they can do. Everybody knows they can cartwheel.

You want to be able to do that basic stuff, of course, you'll have to do them when you get hired.

Inspiration: The Answer To Why You Do This

If anyone ever asks you what a copywriter or art director does and why you want to be one, share this collection of ads with them. Ads like these make me proud to be a creative and inspired to make something amazing.

If you ever ask yourself why you want to be a copywriter or art director... well, not if, when you ask yourself why you're doing this, don't look at collections like these.

8 Must Haves of a Creative's Desk

My fav artist: Ananda Mahu
Most agencies have open floor plans with little or no dividers between you and
 everyone else. Which is great for a lot of things (I assume since every agency is doing this now, but I'm not sure what exactly) but one of the downfalls is no privacy or personal space. 

But just because you don't have a proper office, cubicle or officle doesn't mean you can't make where you sit feel comfortable and special.

Personally, there are a few things that make me feel most relaxed and creative. 

My couch is on the top of that list. But since I can't work from home every day, I do what I can to simulate that feeling in the office.

Creative Desk Must Haves 

(for people named Neisha Tweed.) 

1. Things to write on. A note pad and post-its are my go tos. You want to have something close by whenever genius strikes. Or if you need to doodle.

2. Something that inspires you. A picture, a quote, a solar-powered dancing frog...whatever that thing is that makes you keep going, keep it in clear sight.

3. A bit of home. For me that's sea shells from St Kitts. I live the quote "Home is wherever you are" and try to carry a piece of home the makes me feel warm and whole. 

4. Tools of the trade. Whether you are a writer or AD, keep markers, pencils, an exacto knife and a bucket of thumbtacks at your desk. Trust me.

Client clothes/shoes. Have a blazer and/or heels. If you suddenly get called to present in front of the client you better look presentable. 

Snacks. For the late nights, the times you skip lunch to beat a deadline and those times you're thinking really hard and need something to do with your hands. Whether you get pistachios or Skittles is up to you. 

7. A talking piece. Something, anything random that people will ask about. Breaking the ice is easier when you have a ninja sword hung over your cupboards - literally and figuratively. (Warning, don't take weapons to work. You'll probably get arrested.)  

8. (Optional.) Office shoes/clothes. Before I get settled in on my desk and fully ready to work, I switch into flip flops and a comfy cardigan. I learned it from Mr. Rogers. 
Blame my childhood.

Reality Check: Not Everyone Can Write Copy

"Copywriting is sooooo easy." Says anyone who is not a copywriter.

Knowing the proper ways to twist language, turn a phase, add some personality, pluck the right synonym and set the perfect cadence is an effing skill. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

The same way art directors and designers have an eye for colour and type, writers have an eye, ear and wrist for words, connotation and wit.

This blog post below shows exactly how it may totally seem easy to just write a line and promote a product and people will just love it and everything will be amazing and you will be promoted to Chief Creative Officer. That’s how it works because copywriting is soooooo easy.

Inspiration: Everything's Been Done

There’s nothing new under the sun. I either heard that in church or in a Lauryn Hill song. Or both.

It’s the truth either way. (Well, unless you look at all the new technologies and advances in science. Ok so, there are a few new things under the sun. Just not so much in advertising.) 

That’s another reason to constantly be looking at ads from other brands, years, countries and categories. You'll be inspired -- and will save yourself some disappointment.  

There is nothing worse than coming up with one of those ideas that makes you high-five the air, frantically comping it up, presenting it and then hearing, “Oh, that’s just like the [some other shit someone else did at some other time]”

Before You Ask For Reviews

I'm always honoured when people ask me to review their books. I'd gladly help any young (Clearly. This blog exists.) When I reply, they are always surprised by two things: (i) that I took so long to do it, and (ii) that I wrote such comprehensive notes, with references and tips.

You put a lot of time and energy into your portfolio and I want to give it the time and energy it deserves. I genuinely want to help you, and saying this is good, and I don't like this or delete this doesn't help you understand what you're doing right or wrong or why. And definitely won't make you a better creative, get you hired or prepare you for the  realities of working in advertising.

The best critiques I've gotten were those that left me feeling like I should just go look for a job as

ADCOLOR 2013 Recap Pt 1

“Randy Jackson's flower print jacket.”  – AA 
People keep asking me how this year's ADCOLOR Awards & Industry Conference was. It's been two weeks, and being a writer, I’m pretty embarrassed my response is still: “Awesome! Inspirational! Motivational! The weather in LA changed my life!”(I'm usually very conservative with exclamation marks, but they served as my attempt to show the exponential awesomeness of the whole weekend.) 

So, instead of wasting your time with my foolishness, here is some feedback from a few other folks who were there and apparently are more articulate than I am.

What Was Awesome
  • Having an honest conversation with Wilson Cruz at the show's after party - he is so down-to-earth and fearless.  – AA 
  • EVERYONE was nice, humble and willing to help. I've been to many conferences before

Inspiration: Are You Sharp Enough To Win A Pencil?

I'm partial to pencils. Especially freshly-sharpened pencils. And big gold pencils -- like the ones they award at the One Show every year.

I've gone to the interactive award show for the past few years and am always so inspired and motivated by everything I see. To see what other people from all over the world have done in the name of advertising is amazing. Especially the things that actually help people and change the world.

I came across this collection of the 2012 winners. Click on the thumbnails to see the full case study video

Creative Traffic Jams

Creative blocks are painful. Creative construction detours and creative traffic jams...
excruciating. Hashtag the worst

I've been pretty stressed at work lately about because everything is just not there yet. I'm working working working but I still haven't hit gold yet. Bronze. Maybe one silver. But nothing that makes me go "Yes! This is it!"

And that frustrates the shit out of me. (I then decide I suck as a copywriter and should go get a job working as a Dora in Times Square.)

A few years ago, an old boss who saw that I was driving myself to the brink of insanity took me

Summer is Almost Here

Where do you see yourself in 8 months and 3 days? Starting your 2014 Summer internship is the correct answer.
It may seem far away, especially since you're probably just now getting settled into the start of Fall semester, but trust me, the older you get, the faster time goes. May 2014 will be here in 9 weeks and you will be walking around like George Michael Bluth.

So get to work. Now.

Things to think about: 
1. What do I want to be doing this time next year?
2. Where do I want to be?
3. What do I need to do to get there?

I'll Drink To That

Cheers to the weekend! It may be a bit early to be talking about booze, so let's this pretend this blog post is a mimosa or Bloody Mary, which, for some reason, are more acceptable to drink before noon than a scotch on the rocks.

The conversation about advertising and alcohol can be a bit touchy. There are so many rules, restrictions and reasons we probably shouldn't advertise it at all.

Should you put alcohol ads in your book? 

1. Is this alcohol ad freaking awesome enough to go in your book?
(This is what you should be asking for everything you consider putting on your site: "Is it awesome?" Visit Awesome-or-Awful for help testing your ideas. Hash tag shameless plug.)  

2. Is this alcohol ad freaking awesome (and legal) enough to run in real life?

The whole point of creating a portfolio is to show that you know what's up. That you know how to think strategically and find creative solutions for brands and how the advertising industry works. Your ads needs to look like they're ready to go live tomorrow. So, make sure you show that you understand the category and the way the brands live in our world.

So the answer is Yes, But. YES, you can put an alcohol ad in your book, BUT it better be amazing and it better abide by the industry regulations.

When in doubt, do a responsible drinking or don't-drink-and-drive PSA instead. Everybody loves a good PSA. And seriously, it better be damn good.

Since it's 5 o' clock in Prague now, I think it's safe for us to look at some alcohol ads.
Check out Copyranter's list of The Best of The Great Absolut Ads. See all 55 here.
Below are a few of my favs.

That's Not My Name

"Can I just call you Jane?" A teacher at the boarding school she went to in Zimbabwe my friend Tsungai when she was younger.

That's not your name, I said, appalled. It had taken me a good six or seven tries (and another 3 in the mirror when I got home) to pronounce Tsungai correctly - soon-ghee (hard g like in guess) btw. I was determined to call her by the name her parents had chosen for her.

I was reminded by this struggle last weekend at AdColor - where some of the most fabulous

What To Say To Upset Your Boss (And Oprah)

"That's not my job." - This is number 15 on the list of 17 Things You Should Never Say To Your Boss and Number 3 of my Seriously, Someone Said That?? list.

Are you kidding me? There is a time and place for everything. But there is never a time you should say "That's not my job." Not to your boss. Actually, not to anyone. If you're on a team and you're getting paid to get things done, then you need to get things done.

Between work and teaching, I've heard quite a few things that have made me snatch my pearls. Here's my list, with reactions from Her Holiness, Oprah.

Inspiration: 80 Creative Ads + 3 Reasons You Should Care

I try to post something inspirational at least once a week. Actually, inspirational isn’t the right aspirational. The things I post with the tag “inspiration” should be looked at as awesome creative you should aspire to creative. Things you should want to do, and do even better.
word – it’s not a Mother Theresa quote –  I guess I more so mean

Creatives should constantly be looking at ads. Good ads, bad ads, current ads, old ads, foreign ads. Seeing what others have done and how they’ve done it is crucial to your growth as a copywriter/art director.

Why? Because it makes you better.

When you’re looking at ads, keep these 3 things in mind:

What Works: What about this is good? Can you see what the concept is? And how it comes

How to Not Get Hired in 140 Characters or Less.

Watch what you say on social media because employers are looking, listening and crossing people off their lists.  [111]

I've written before about Developing A Split Personality that separates most of your personal life and your professional. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's my opinion. And my suggestion. 

In this article, 1 in 10 Young Job Hunters Rejected Because Of Their Social Media, they say "91% of hiring managers used social networking sites to screen prospective employees. About 69% had rejected candidates for what they found."

Holy crap. 

Time to readjust your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram privacy settings. 

Once you're finished with that, here are some junior copywriter, art director and designer jobs to apply to: 

13 Essential Questions To Ask A Recruiter

Recruiters will ask you 3,982 questions when they meet you and throughout your relationship. (Note: Not all of these are relevant for juniors and entry level jobs, so use your discretion to make sure you don’t come off sounding arrogant.)
The article below looks at 13 questions you need to ask the recruiter:

Do you have the job in hand?
Have you placed with the client before?
Where is the job located?
What is the compensation package?
What is the company’s culture / core ideals?
What’s the job description?

Top 3 Reasons To Go To AdColor

What are you doing September 18th – 21st
The correct answer is going to AdColor in LA.

The AdColor Industry Conference and Awards show is a spectacular exhibition of talent, inspiration, knowledge-sharing, celebration, and of course, color.

There's so much I can say about it, actually there's too much. It’s kind of like the Grammy's, One Show, Lifetime Achievement Awards but with seminars, panels, a ridiculous amount of networking and slightly too much fun.

Last year was my first time going (mostly because of this gem) And this year, I’m fortunate to be going back and speaking on a panel, Madison's Browne's F@#$ The Titles town hall. Hashtag excited.

Now. Let’s talk about why you should be there.

Advice From Recruiters

Here are two great recruiter blogs I really enjoy. Bookmark, read and learn.

Confessions of a Creative Recruiter
Be here. Now.

Ever been in a meeting and a couple folks bring their laptops? Then they spend the entire meeting typing away and half listening to what's going on? I don't get this.
First, it is definitely not quiet. Second, what good is half listening? Half good in my eyes.
Nothing says "I'm really much busier than all of you

How To Work With A Recruiter

Working with a recruiter/head hunter is kind of daunting at first. Who is this person? What do I talk to them about? What if I say something stupid and they blackball me? 

This post, written by Laura Bonetti should help break things down and make it a little easier. 

Laura is a creative recruiter/head hunter at Kay & Black. Agencies go to her and say “Here’s the type of person we want and the type of things we want them to do. Bring me that person.” 

She’s kind of like a match-maker.

Understanding what Laura does, how she does and how to best work with her – BEFORE – you even approach her (or people like her.) will be very valuable for your career.

I covered Things Recruiters Love/Hate a while back, now I’d like to share a How To/ Behind The Scenes/ Intro To post about

Inspiration: Move Something

Your goal as a creative is to move people and to get people to move. That's why you include a "call to action" in every ad - some action-verb-fueled sentence that tells people what to do and where to do it.

Click to learn more...Buy now...Ask your doctor about...Like us on Facebook... (Side note: Like BFFC on Facebook, and follow the board on Pinterest.) 

And that's why you try to come up with ideas that have human truths and make a connection to people's emotions in order to elicit a response. 

Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them buy. Make them talk. Make them share.

In this age of social media, a Share is one of the strongest and most coveted call to actions.

Criticism and Praise are Twins

Negative reinforcement often motivates me more than positive. I'm a bit masochistic, perhaps. Tell me what I'm doing wrong and I'll bust my ass to do better, to fix it, to make sure you never have to say that again. 

Tell me I'm great and I blush, feel uncomfortable and change the topic. Look, there's an owl! 

I like critique. I like challenges. I like being taught and sent on the right path. I like hearing No. (Unless it's in any way related to ice cream) And like I posted here, Praise Make You Feel Good, Critique Makes You Better.

Of course, we all need our backs patted every now and then, and a good ole fashioned high five never hurt anybody. That acknowledgement and support go a long way. But if it's too much,

The Truth About Your Career

There are a lot of things people won’t tell you. Not me. Not your teachers. Not your boss.

Not your mother.

A lot of life is about gaining experience and figuring things out. So don't be afraid to explore, to question things, to try and to fail.

Remember: Mistakes are valuable. Assumptions are not. 

I read this post a few weeks ago and wanted to share it. It is great because it lists some of those assumptions and ill-conceived notions that some people, especially those new and young,

Dealing With Self-Doubt

Being a creative is horrible for your self-esteem. I should've been something more uplifting. Like a dolphin. Or a rainbow. 

That leads me to another confession: Sometimes I doubt myself. 
Sometimes just for a brief moment before I do a presentation or when I get a new project. Other times it lasts days. 

It can come after a series of losses (like projects dying, ideas not being sold, concepts being butchered, projects being given to other people). Or after a string of almosts (almost selling that idea, almost writing a good headline, almost coming up with something everybody loves). And usually after any iteration of the sentence "Close. But not there." 

Doubting yourself is part of the creative cycle. How you deal with it is part of your personal growth. 

You can let it cripple you and keep you from moving forward

67 Ways To Be A Better Circus Act

Creativity, like any other skill, requires practice. There is a large part of being a great creative that comes from talent, the rest comes from experience. Over time the ideas come faster, you know whether it's good or not quicker, and you know when and how to take risks.

To be a great creative, you have to practice every day. Even when you don't want to. Especially when you don't want to.

You have to train your brain to jump through hoops with a flaming baton in its mouth. Every single time you snap your fingers.

You have to practice starting, then stopping, then starting again.

Are You A Big Deal?

Choose your words wisely. The way that you describe and sell yourself may be working against you.

You may be coming off as arrogant. As an asshole. As an amateur. A poser.

Is that what you want people to think about you?

When somebody reads your About Me section on your website, social media profile or LinkedIn page, the first impression they get of you is exactly what you give them. So make sure

Assignment: 10 Days of Inspiration

People often ask where I find inspiration. The quick answer is everywhere. Talking to new
people. Watching movies. Reading articles. Travelling. Looking at good ads. Looking at bad ads. The bottom line is you have to be active and seek out things and experiences to inspire you.

I try to start my mornings going through a few ad blogs and looking at some of the latest work out there. I came across this collection of 60 ads recently and thought I'd share.

The Inspiration: 
Here is a link to 60 Mind-blowing Advertisements That Will Boost Your Creativity to help inspire you this week. (Some of them you have to click through to, so don't think they're not working if you don't immediately see an image) 

The Assignment: 
Go through 6 a day for the next 10 days