The creative process in advertising is a team effort, whether creative people like it or not. As long as there’s a brand attached to the work, there is an entire agency team, many of whom are not creative types, but they’re going to throw all kinds of opinions your way. Then there are the clients, the people who are actually paying for everything, and rarely does an idea come out the other side unscathed.
It’s a messy, often chaotic process, and it’s why so much advertising you see turns out to be safe, mediocre, unfunny, or worse – unmemorable. But this is the life we creatives chose, and it beats selling original paintings on street corners.
Many copywriters and art directors need creative outlets free of outside criticism, which is why so many creative types play music in bands, make actual art, try their hand at improv or standup comedy, or pour their hearts into a novel or screenplay that just may make it to a screen near you.
I’ve attempted all these things, but none has given more satisfaction than baking.
Yes, baking. As in using flour. Or in my case multiple flours, many of which are stored in plastic bags and currently taking up freezer space. And my sourdough starter was not born during the pandemic. In fact, it’s approaching its tenth birthday.
Baking bread is such a simple act yet can be its own art form. It’s fun to geek out on artisan flours, but really most everything you need can be found in a neighborhood supermarket. In fact, the spice aisle becomes quite exciting. Four-seed bread with fennel, anise, celery seeds, and caraway? Sure. Braided challah topped everything bagel spices? Yes! Spicy curry bread with corn flour? Why not? Whole wheat pita with za’atar? Let’s do this. Sourdough pizza crust with herbs de Provence? Oui, monsieur. These are just some of what I’ve learned to make, and I’m hardly an expert.
Baking also follows its own deadlines. You can’t rush dough to rise. You can’t complete a crusty round sourdough when you feel like it. Baking takes time and attention. Some breads require preparations the day before. Some doughs will collapse if you forget about them on a hot summer day. Each bread knows its own path to completion. It’s the baker’s job to figure out what that is. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. There are shortcuts, like getting a bread machine that lets you just dump ingredients, press a button, and then walk away. But like most things that are automated and mass-produced, the results aren’t as nearly as impressive as when you don’t learn the craft.
I’ve brought my fresh loaves to potluck neighborhood dinner parties, and no one has complained. Some too kind people have suggested I find a way to cash in on my hobby but where I live it’s not hard to find artisan bakeries. Besides, I’m not looking to serve the masses. That means I’d have to find investors, name my business, build a brand, find customers, make ads on social media, and try to attract a following. But crowds bring critics. And critics bring comments. And avoiding outside comments is the reason why I grew to love baking in the first place.
I’ve spent too much of my professional life respectfully listening to others opine on creative work and what they need to be happy with it (so they say). Do I really want to hear someone telling me that the brioche is too sweet or not sweet enough?
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a dark pumpernickel loaf that needs my attention.