Have you ever tried to be creative on demand? Have you ever been around one of those artistic types who claimed to have an inability to create unless they’re “inspired” to do so? The relationship between artist and muse has been around for many years. In Greek Mythology the Muses were goddesses that inspired creativity in the field of art and literature. In modern times that definition has been broaden to include anything or anyone that empowers an artist to be both creative and productive. In spite of either definition, the muse is most often viewed as an elusive entity that is fickle and fleeting. It is believed that only the rarest of geniuses have the wherewithal to summon this power at will. As a result, most artistic types labor under the assumption that unless this “mythical spirit” visit them they won’t be able to “create.” Any attempts to dislodge this belief system borders on blasphemy. Interestingly enough Stan Richards, the founder of the Richards Group, has managed to build a multi-billion dollar advertising agency by challenging this very notion. Richards chooses to emphasize the virtues of discipline and structure as the basis of birthing innovative ad campaigns.
‘Creative’ industries such as advertising, software design, and the like are supposed to require a loose, anything-goes culture, in which workers are free to come, go, and dress as they please. It’s a world of verdant campuses, foosball tables, and caffeine-fueled all nighters. Introduce things such as start times, end times, and time sheets—rules—and watch your creatives run for the exits. Richards, obviously, feels differently. ‘We need to be disciplined,’ he explains. ‘We are not gallery painters who paint when the feeling moves us.’ And Richards has made it work. The 29 creative group heads at Richards’s shop have an average tenure of 17 years. ‘The genius of the place is completely counterintuitive,’ says David Fowler, who wrote the landmark Motel 6 spots back in 1986 and today is the executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City. ‘Somehow, Stan made you feel like you were only limited by the size of your ideas.’
I’m sure there are many artists and industry types that would take issue with Richards’ ideology of how Creativity Doesn’t Need a Muse it Needs a Drill Sargeant! Needless to say, Richards is in the position to present over a billion reasons as to why he is correct in making this assumption. The key point, regardless of your interests, is how incorporating structure and discipline into your daily routine can yield tangible rewards. There are few shortcuts when it comes to success. Whereas, there’s always the option of waiting for a visit from that elusive inspirational muse, it will more than likely result in reduced productivity along with mediocre results. Discipline and structure is a small price to pay in the pursuit of excellence and creativity.