“It’s gonna take time. A whole lot of precious time. It’s gonna take patience and time. Umm. To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it right, child.”
– The Beatle who was actually good at guitar

George H. hit it right on the nose. Doing things right takes time. And in the creative department at an ad agency, time is an issue we grapple with every day. Because we want more precious time. And everyone wants to give us less.

“Wah,” you say. “Everybody’s busy, dude.”

Geez, I know. We all work in the real world. But in this real world of shrinking timelines and increasing “measureable” expectations, a special case for more time in the creative process needs to be made.

Here’s why: true creative thinking requires the time to do one very important thing—to not think. In How to Get Ideas by advertising luminary Jack Foster, it’s the step in creative problem solving after you 1.) Define the problem, 2.) Gather information, and 3.) Search for the idea. Step 4 is to forget about it.

But to forget about a problem, you need distance. Sometimes that distance is physical. But more often, it’s temporal. Giving your unconscious time to wrestle with a problem, while your immediate attention is on something else. Preferably, an activity that Maria Konnikova, author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, describes as being a “mindful distraction” that:

  • Is unrelated to what you are trying to accomplish
  • Doesn’t take too much effort on your part
  • Still engages you on some level

Like walking in the woods. Or juggling.

Or watching Macho Man Randy Savage discuss coffee creamer.

Or doing an activity like one of history’s famous thinkers did when they were intentionally not thinking.