Go pick up a novel of a writer whose style you admire. Say it’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez – he’s about as unmarketing-speaky as you can get. Open to any page. Now copy the words of the page into your own notebook.
When you’re finished, start writing what you need to say about your product. You’ll find you’re doing it in an entirely different voice.
You can do this with Hemmingway and Steinbeck as easily as you can with Dan Brown and David Sedaris. Go ahead and try some poetry. Works with Sandberg and Billy Collins, too.
Art directors: Do the same by taking out a big book on fine art. Or photography. Or design. You don’t have to recreate each painting. But you can try. Sketch out the composition. Study the shadows and the colors. Spend a half hour with a particular style. Then jump into your layout while it’s fresh in your brain.
Small trick. But it works. And it’s much better than staring at a blank page, or just writing and laying out what you think the client (or the awards show juries) expect.
I’ve worked with some tough clients. Some have acted irrationally. Others with distrust and even distain.
But none were as tough as Pope Julius II.
It wasn’t that he was demanding. It was that he kept changing his mind. He had wild, ephemeral expectations, but gave little concrete direction. He probably coined the phrase, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
He considered himself a great patron of the arts. He did much to beautify Rome, laid the foundation of St. Peter’s Basillica, and was a friend of Raphael and Bramante. So even though he wasn’t a craftsman, couldn’t paint, sculpt or design, he thought he knew great art better than those producing it.
To compound the problem, Pope Julius II was more concerned for his own personal fame as a member of the family of della Rovere (i.e., personal glory) than for the advancement of the influence and authority of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e., the brand).
Each of you will probably have a Pope Julius II sometime in your careers. Maybe several of them. Ridiculous. Egotistic. Impossible-to-please.
Here’s the thing. This is what Michaelangelo did for this impossible-to-please client:
This weekend, if you’re planning your Charlton Heston Memorial Bash, I suggest you skip The Ten Commandments and check out The Agony and the Ecstasy, the movie based on Irving Stone’s biography of Michaelangelo.