Sunday, September 29, 2013


A term I've been using, and has come to annoy me, is 'creatives' referring to a broad category of professions - painting, illustrators, musicians, writers etc.

It's a useful term, it has currency, but it has downsides as well. For example, if it were limited to people who create content - either in the abstract - intellectual property, plans, scripts, designs, schematics etc. or material - sculpture, paintings, finished product, furniture, buildings etc. I'd be totally fine, totally relaxed about throwing 'creative' round as a catch-all profession.

But it comes with baggage too. Reverence and exceptionalism and judgement. And this leads to a paradox I have come across again and again. Some of the least creative people I've met, are those most readily identified as 'creatives'.

Perhaps by contrast, the most overlooked for creative ability, are those most readily identified as 'suits' or even I'm told, 'military brass'.

It's a big call and a hard position to defend, by and large, because it's so hard to identify creativity. It gets smudged into a bunch of other words like 'originality' that I feel is unrealistic and damaging to many creatives, and 'intelligent' which correlates but is neither sufficient nor I suspect necessary, for creating.

For me, I feel in personal experience, being creative involves a lot of insight and very very little imagination. The reason being, that if you have sufficient insight, the answers (I find, at least,) are quite obvious. There was a Ford engineer that once wrote on a wall in his office 'the solution to this problem, once found, will be simple.' In a fine example of a suit understanding the creative process.

It's the 'exceptionalism' that comes with the term 'creatives' that gets annoying. Because really, there's no career advice I'd give to a creative, that I wouldn't to a suit. And I find it hard to imagine situations that apply to creatives that don't to suits, or don't have a direct analogy.

This leads to creatives getting a reverence that they really haven't earned. And really, the unappreciated difference between respecting and revering is something about creatives that gets up my nose often.

Here are the real differences - 'creatives' are almost universally undertaking a scalable, or 'winner takes all' profession. Thus the revenue's of creative pursuits are distributed inequitably, you have a heap of people making no money, you have a few people making a lot (or all there is to be made, at least).

That's pretty much an exhaustive list of the differences. The use of a term like 'creative' comes into play when comparison to other people's lives, and lifecycles is both unfair and non-favorable. It serves nobody to point out that a 'creative' can't afford to buy a house, nor can guaruntee their income. These are all intrinsic to the risks of the scalable profession.

But then the lack of comparison can also be unfair, and serve nobody. I meet a citizen of Thailand, a lifelong Chiang-Mai resident, and I might comment that he is very 'exotic'. But this is only relative to my cultural grounding. I feel when a suit bumps up with a creative at a party, the creative will indeed seem 'creative' relative to the suit.

Note though that I use the term 'suit' which really doesn't describe the rest of us at all. Also note that I identify both with creatives and 'the rest of us'. The point being that within the context of creative world, what you will notice increasingly is, that many creatives, aren't really creative at all. They just exude an interest in creativity. In the same way that my Thai friend, isn't exotic at all in his home village.

So let's draw the line in the other direction for once. Walk into an office full of suits, and you'll realise that the term 'non-creative' doesn't work as a catch-all. Offices contain very creative people, as does the military and other scenes you might be inclined to call a heirarchy or even, 'organisation' with the suggestion of being organised.

But to be fair, you will notice a lot of people, who's job consists of facilitating a procedure. Often a procedure they did not design themselves, nor one they apply critical faculties to to refine it. Many many people simply conduct useful work, but are not themselves creative in any sense. The same applies to artists, writers, sculptors, musos etc.

Yet, while it seems almost admirable for somebody to point to the worker living a routine existence in an office 5 days a week, and say 'what are you really doing with your life?' it is considered exceptional, and people will take exception if you point at an artist churning out meaningless artwork and ask them 'what are you doing with your life?'

There are, as a percentage, as many people in an office just so they could wear a suit, as there are musos on stage just so they could have an album recorded.

And the point, once synthesised, is that a term like 'creative' gives many a free pass assumption that they have somehow found meaning in their life, that they are living their passion. It's simply not true, in fact this very free pass allows many 'creatives' to not even ask the hard questions of themselves.

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