Food for thought: A tasty piece of advice to boost your creative career

I’m sitting in Icebergs at Bondi Beach on a spectacularly blue-skied Sydney day. In front of me sits an oyster; a Sydney Rock Oyster, to be precise.

The table I am sitting at is made up of an even split of clients and colleagues, and they’re looking at me in anticipation. You see, I haven’t had an oyster before. Do I chew it? Or do I quickly swallow it without thinking about it? I decide on the chew method. Note to self; never chew an oyster again. Just swallow the bloody thing and get it over and done with. (I won’t go into the details of the very embarrassing aftermath…)

That was my introduction to working in a creative agency. I was two days into my dream job as a Junior Graphic Designer and had been invited to a client lunch. During the lunch, it was my boss’s suggestion that I order a dish I’d never tried before. He told me that as a creative, it was important to experience something different every day. His rationale was that if I didn’t like what I was trying, then I would at least be confident knowing that I was never going to like it, and that would be a good life experience anyway. 

That day set the tone for my career. It was arguably the most important lesson I learnt in my now twelve years of working in the creative industry. 

As creatives, we are constantly expected to solve problems in inventive and unique ways. It can be very demanding to approach a problem from multiple perspectives. To do that, we need to become the people we are trying to solve the problem for; imagine what that person is doing, feeling, wearing; the place they live, how they travel, what they read. While we can never fully understand all the nuances of their situation, it’s crucial to be open to other experiences. This gives us the best chance to empathise with our audience.

I like to think of this approach to thinking as creative nourishment. It’s about taking the time to experience things that change the way we see the world, activating all the senses and allowing those experiences to pass through us, mindfully. Being observant in those moments enables us to open up rich veins of creativity, which we usually have closed to us.

So next time you’re feeling uninspired or are short on ideas, my advice is to try something new; walk to work via a different route or catch the ferry instead of driving, and observe how commuters behave on their journey. Or take a trip to a suburb you’ve never been to before and note what’s different. Or, like I did twelve years ago – sample a dish that you’ve never tried before, with new textures and flavours. Step out of your comfort zone, absorb your surroundings and be open to new experiences. 

As it turns out, I now love oysters.

Tanya Ilinkovski
Creative Director of Focus Creative.

Focus Creative