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Everyone Can Be Creative: Inspiring Habits from an Ex-Nun

by Biba Cabuquit

Lessons from the Merlee Jayme School of Creativity.

I first encountered Merlee at a Young Kidlat competition years ago. I don’t remember the topic, but what stuck to me was that she had made it more exciting with a game. “I want Cannes Lion-winning ideas,” she said, then dangled stuffed toy lions to our sleep-deprived faces. I first thought to myself, “uy, ang effort, may prize.” Secondly, when I was more lucid—the lady had made a point, and had made it well.

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A few years later, was my interview at DM9. She was extolling the virtues of what was then an up-and-coming small shop. Her sales talk worked and what followed were the most challenging years of my career—or what I call, the uphill battle in the Merlee Jayme School of Creativity.

Here are excerpts from her book I’d like to expound on (not everything’s in here, otherwise you may not buy it).

CREATIP # 1: Learning never stops.

In one of our clearances-slash-kwento sessions, she mentioned that she wanted to apply to the Berlin School of Creativity. They politely informed her (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Um…looking at your resume, madame, would you be interested in becoming an instructor instead?”

It’s just so typical of her to always want to push herself and be faced with the reality that she needs to follow her own advice. Which leads me to…

CREATIP # 3: Shut down.

Merlee’s idea of relaxing is running. Or Bikram yoga. Or badminton. All very fun and exhilarating, I hear, but thankfully, she also likes drinking red wine—an activity most people can finally relate to.

She had this brainchild of One New Bar A Week where office folks can de-stress and catch up with each other’s lives. Topics can range from the elections, ghostly apparitions, other people’s sex lives and the occasional stupid prank.

CREATIP # 5: Be resourcefool.

My main take-away is that sometimes, you can make a pun #fun

CREATIP # 6: Be positive.

Like every agency, ours has its fair share of hotheads, emo kids, drama queens, demontitas and loudmouths; I’m always amazed though, how Merlee can remain eternally cheerful in the face of looming deadlines, demanding clients and the aforementioned volatile staff.

Is it the nunnery afterglow? Her #blessed life? The good karma from all that kamote? Perhaps all of the above.

CREATIP # 9: Make your creative life difficult.

Reading this part, I literally laughed out loud, and I may have shared it with the rest of the Creatives as we were pulling a midnighter. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but something I am (mostly) thankful for.

It’s become second nature for us to explode a Job Order for a Facebook post into a full-blown digital effort, with accompanying ready-to-air video.

Why stop at a poster when it can become a 360-degree campaign? Print ad? Here’s a CSR idea to sustain it!

Yes, it’s hard, time-consuming and entails more effort than some clients deserve, but honestly, after some time, we don’t know any other way. During internals, the Accounts peeps have the license to go, “Maybe we can push it further…”

We may grumble and roll our eyes, but when working overtime alongside the Chairmom, it’s business as usual.

It’s been 9 years and the lessons I’ve learned from Merlee could fill a multitude of books (Ex: How to be charmingly sarcastic.). Not everyone can have the pleasure, and let’s face it, the pain of working alongside her; this book is a blessing for those who aspire to be artistic in their own fields.

It’s a promise, a threat, or the fulfillment of a life-long dream—anyone can be creative.

This review was first published in the July-August 2016 issue of adobo magazine.

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