“It’s CreateAthon! The best day of the year!” is what I hear as Julie and I reach the front door at exactly the same time and we smile covertly in the knowing that ahead of us lay 24+ intense hours in which we and 30 other volunteers will be tested to our creative cores.
We were not new to this, neither Julie (in her 11th year) nor I (in my 15th, if you count Riggs CreateAthon and CreateAthon on Campus, which I do). We veterans knew exactly what we were facing. The first eight hours would be filled with a whirlwind of meetings and brainstorming sessions that would flash by in an instant. Followed quickly by the twilight hours, during which you swear you really do have THE ONE PROJECT THAT HAS NO SOLUTION in front of you. (Or rather, all of your CreateAthon assignments feel this way.) You wonder what on earth you are doing here; what will happen when the creatives around you, and thus the world, discover you’re a hack, washed up, finished.
Then comes a passerby who glances at your screen and offers an encouraging word, a little i love that and you think, that? really? now that you mention it i sort of love that, too, and you look at it anew and see its potential. And you put on your headphones and buckle down, getting it done, seeing it through.
And in no time it is 2 a.m., the witching hour, and a wave of questioning moves through the building, team to team, office to office, sketchbook to sketchbook.
This will never work.
What were we thinking?
Maybe we should just start over.
We’ll never finish in time.
About this time Peyton does a headstand and a gigantic penguin rounds the kitchen corner and Kevin parades through the building in Tim’s Haz Mat suit and we all laugh deep and hearty and reach for just one or two more Sara Made Those cookies. And then we are back at it.
And the sun comes up, and the shiny and showered nonprofit clients arrive, and we usher them to little meeting rooms where we show & tell them the stories of the work we’ve created and the ways we think it will help them do what they do a little bit better. And they look us deep in our eyes, all the way to our hearts, and say:
You will never know what this means to us. You will never know what a difference you have made.
And we tear up and exhale and eventually go home, spent and happy. And we fall into the most peaceful sleep, thinking of the work, and the people, satisfied that we’ve done something together, something good, something important. Knowing it was, indeed, no question, without a doubt, the very best day of the year.
Become a CreateAthon partner. It will change your agency culture in some pretty magical ways.