5 things MasterClass teaches about creativity

Elaine Welteroth sitting in a cozy chair.
Expert insights from Elaine Welteroth & other instructors on the MasterClass platform.

Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by MasterClass

Every creative needs inspiration to come up with ideas, test different approaches and keep learning. For me, one of the most captivating sources of inspiration is still the MasterClass platform.

MasterClass is an online education subscription platform that hosts tutorials and lectures pre-recorded by experts in various fields, such as President Bill Clinton on inclusive leadership and Samuel L. Jackson on acting.

I want to share some insights that will help anyone working in an advertising agency or elsewhere in the creative industry hone their craft and boost career confidence.

These insights have been culled from 20+ courses in fields such as arts and entertainment, business, wellness & more. I’ve divided the insights into 5 sections.

On the importance of keeping an open mind

Filmmaker James Cameron says the importance of staying curious cannot be stressed enough.

“Live life and observe. Before you can radiate, you need to absorb,” Cameron says, meaning the best ideas are based on something you have seen or felt first-hand. Observing life makes you appreciate life.

In their MasterClass on advertising, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein quote industry legend David Ogilvy by advising creatives to write for only two hours instead ten. “The rest of the time you should find things to write about.”

So you find the time but how do you find something inspirational? Humorist David Sedaris suggests that you should “say yes to weird experiences.”

Finding inspiration isn’t a one-off exercise – you should always be tuned in. Music producer Timbaland instructs you to study the greats (whatever that means to your craft), but to “evolve your influences.”

St. Vincent teaches songwriting on MasterClass.

On the importance of practice

We all know the saying “practice makes perfect.” Honing your craft patiently is especially important for junior talents but even seasoned veterans can’t rest on their laurels.

Once you start practicing, negotiator Chris Voss suggests it takes 40–60 repetitions to feel like a natural.

That might sound exhausting and tedious, but there is an upside to the drills. According to Voss, “feeling awkward is a sign that you’re learning.” Musician St. Vincent talks about something she calls generative songwriting. It’s a principle that applies to any craft: “the more you do it, the more you’re able to make.”

But going it alone might not take you to where you wanted to go, so it’s always a good idea to ask someone to advise you. This should be someone with appropriate experience but, as journalist Elaine Welteroth says, “mentors don’t have to be your senior.”

Esther Perel teaches relational intelligence on Masterclass.

On the importance of personal skills

Giving feedback is one of the key responsibilities of a mentor (or any colleague, for that matter). We all have our own ways of giving and receiving feedback, and this can lead to misunderstandings or even conflict.

Psychotherapist Esther Perel suggests asking for feedback on your feedback. Has my advice helped you to do things differently? Was it actionable?

Sometimes things get heated in the workplace. According to Voss, appropriate labeling – naming the other person’s emotions (e.g. “you’re upset?”) so they’re recognized and validated – can help in disarming a conflict. Labeling negatives might cancel them, and labeling positives reinforce them.

But do remember to distinguish what’s relevant to a professional negotiation. As Sedaris says, “truth is different from feelings.”

Timbaland teaches music production on MasterClass.

On the importance of owning your idea

You might think, it’s just a job – and that is fine.

But as former White House Communications Director George Stephanopoulos says, “those who work to interpret and communicate do get personally invested in things that aren’t directly personal.” This is something he learned while covering 9/11 for ABC News.

And when you do find something personal, don’t stop believing in your idea or signature style. “Everyone has their own bounce. Hold on to yours,” Timbaland says. Case in point: he wrote the R&B classic Pony nine years before Ginuwine got a record deal. “If you get frustrated, it’s good because it shows your love is real.”

On the importance of self-care

Whatever your craft is, remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, either. Welteroth suggests creating a self-care strategy, including actual calendar bookings for something that gives you energy – and committing to the routine.

Bonus tip: mix & match what you’ve learned

A screenwriter teaches you screenwriting and a career coach teaches you to design your professional growth path. But oftentimes, the most interesting ideas materialize when you apply learnings from one discipline to another. A writer can draw inspiration from a designer just like a musical artist can learn from a cinematographer. The variety of topics and instructors on MasterClass is a testament to that. Remember to keep an open mind.

I hope you found this article inspirational! Are you looking for more inspiration from pop culture? Read what The Empire Strikes Back teaches about work in a creative agency.

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