Creative Fatigue (The Creativity Explorer. Episode 154)

Imagine being one of the world’s most awarded and celebrated Creative Directors, only to feel that creativity is starting to elude you. That your aura of creativity is weakening. That you do not feel the same sense of joy.


That’s what happened to Sergio Valente, one of the world’s most renowned Creative Directors and one of Brazil’s most awarded advertising executives.


One year, as the new financial year started, he felt: “Now I have to do it all over again.”


“That word ‘again’ is the dangerous word. ‘Again’ is boring!”, Sergio told me when we recently had a discussion about creative fatigue.


Sergio was still a creative advertising man, but the joy of being one was gone. “I started to think more about the fun things I could do with the money I made, instead of thinking of the fun things I could do to make the money”, he said.


So, he quit.


He then joined Globo (Brazil’s largest entertainment company which reaches 98% of the population of Brazil, with broadcast TV, cable, radio, and studios), as CMO, and he suddenly had to learn about soap operas, actors, TV and a million other things he knew nothing about – and the joy came back! His creative aura started to glow again.


Why? Because he suddenly had to learn so many new things. You see, it’s that which we do not know that fuels creativity.


After a few years at Globo he changed again. He started a communications agency and then got recruited as Global CMO of JBS, the world’s largest food company that aims to grow as a house of brands, where his job is “to seduce the company to change faster”, (which just might be the most exciting work description I have heard in a long time).


Again, he joined a totally new industry (from entertainment to food) and landed in a world where he did not know much – and his creativity thrived.


Or in the poetic words of Sergio, “Creativity has to be in touch with the unknown….”


Sergio understands the role of being exposed to the unknown for creativity to thrive.


He told me, “I love to say ‘I don’t know’.”


Think about it. Some people will say that an expert is someone who “knows everything.”


But people who really are experts know that an ‘expert’ is someone who keeps creating new unknowns.


When Sergio was at the top of his advertising career, he was an expert who knew advertising, but there was not enough unknown.


Sergio said, “I was tired – not tired of creativity, but tired of being in advertising. I knew it (advertising) too well.”


The ‘familiar’ drains the creative soul.


When I listen to Sergio, I wonder if an isolation cell is a terrible punishment, not only because it drains you from human contact, but also because you very soon know every nook and cranny of that tiny room and it quickly becomes painfully familiar. Perhaps it should be called “familiarity punishment.”


So, escape the familiar. Leave the pool of the known and jump into the sea of the unknown, where life feels, smells, tastes and behaves differently. Because, the unknown and your creativity are two creatures of the same breed. Or as Sergio put it, “The Unknown and Creativity are cousins who walk hand in hand.”


When I had the opportunity to interview one of the most creative marketing people in the world, I could not stop myself to ask him for advice on how to avoid suffering from Creative Fatigue.



Sergio, who always speaks in a positive and energetic voice, summarized it beautifully.


“Do things in a different way – Be Creative, and do things. 

Discover the new – Be Brave, to face the unknown.

Make a legacy – Be ambitious, to be remembered.” 


Fueled by creativity, drawn to the unknown and driven by a drive to make a difference. That sounds like a very potent antidote to Creative Fatigue.


If you feel that you are getting close to suffering from Creative Fatigue, ask which of the above levers you need to pull on a bit to come out of it, so you can fall into your creative energy again.


As always, would love to hear your thoughts. Post them on LinkedIn: Creative Fatigue




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