Creative directors create direction
Nick Carter

I was a writer for 16 years before I was a creative director. That’s a lot of expertise that I’m really proud of and is extremely valuable to me in my role…as a writer. What I’ve found, though, is that it's not quite as valuable to my role as a creative director.

One of the hardest habits to unlearn was treating my team’s writing like my own. Early on, I found myself offering feedback to make their writing sound more like how I would write it. I would—in an earnestly well-meaning way—offer rewrites *GASP!* of sentences that popped into my head as I read my team’s work. (Even though I had sixteen years of experience hating this being done to me, sigh.)

To not give in to that urge has been a process of reconditioning, of learning to stand confidently in a new perspective. One that sees the distances between the current state of the work, the strategic aims of the assignment, and the full creative possibility of the concept. From this perspective, I can describe that distance and possible paths to travel it.

Then I leave the team to travel it themselves. Along the way, I clear the paths as needed. I get to enjoy all the surprising places they go, places I might never have considered.

My job as a creative director is not to create the work. It’s to create direction to the work. It may seem very obvious to just say that. But for me, it’s taken a lot of practice and intention to actually do it.

My expertise and experience as a writer is very valuable to me. But it’s less valuable to my team than my ability to support the successful creation of their own expertise and experience.