Damon Stapleton: Creativity. And now for something completely unexpected.

Damon Stapleton: Creativity. And now for something completely unexpected.

A blog by Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer, The Monkeys New Zealand.


“We don’t see the things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

I hope this post makes you remember the first time you had an idea. Come on now, don’t roll your eyes yet.

Creatives are odd in quite a few ways. But, perhaps the strangest is how they search for new ways of doing things. This process is obviously scary and full of insecurity which is why we tend to be cynical bastards. But we are not really are we? I prefer to call it dark charisma anyway.

On top of all this, we are looking for a signal that our thinking will definitely work. It’s like looking for a map while on the journey. So, it is perhaps understandable we seek a little shelter or security from the insanity of this process. This alchemy has a name.


It is a word that gets used way too much. It doesn’t happen very often. That’s why I am so fond of this quote by Chuck Close:

“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

But the truth is it does happen sometimes. So, what is it?

For me, inspiration is when you have absolute clarity about an idea and you know how to do it. Also, you completely know that it’s right. And, it happens instantly. It is also effortless. No work was required. And in hindsight it seemed obvious. I would guess, in a creative’s career, it might happen a couple of times. You often hear musicians saying they wrote a big hit song in ten minutes. They say it was like it was already done and they just managed to hear it.

It is a very mysterious, mystical thing and I wish I understood how it happened. Unfortunately, I don’t. But I have found a clue.

Recently, I was in New York. We were walking about 20,000 sweltering steps a day. New York forces you to get out of your life. The denseness of every city block commands you to look and look again. It gives you new eyes. They see with innocence and clarity. You look at the world like a kid again. You see the possibility of everything.

This brings me to the photo above that I snapped with my iPhone. I was in Washington Park, in Greenwich, with my son Jake. The smell of weed filled the air. It was a beautiful warm evening. We noticed all these guys doing tricks and became fascinated with them. I lost an hour watching them. But, to all the New Yorkers, they were invisible. They walked straight past. In fact, a really great creative put this in on my FB page under the photo.

“It’s fun to see things that captivate you in NYC. When u live here u don’t even notice these things anymore.”

He is completely right. Inspiration doesn’t go anywhere. You just stop seeing it. You see the world as you are. The familiar becomes invisible. If you go to a house in Johannesburg, South Africa for the first time you will notice they all have electric fences. Thousands of them. But if you live there, they are normal. You don’t see them anymore.

It is such a rare and precious gift to see something for the first time. It reminded me that in a world where we want absolute certainty and things that are guaranteed to work, it is still the new, the surprising and the unexpected that push you towards the door of inspiration.

I guess, what I am saying is do yourself a favour.

Take a different way to work tomorrow.