Everybody’s Creative. Just Don’t Tell The Creatives.

15-Nov-2011

Everybody's Creative. Psst. Don't Tell The Creatives. In advertising agencies there is a label that is used in an interesting and pretty clear-cut way. If you are a member of the creative department, you are called a creative. As in “the creatives are in a brainstorming session,” or “see if any of the creatives can fit this project in by end of day,” or “where the heck are all the creatives? oh, out at the ping pong table in back.”


The Creative Label and All It Implies:
1. That creatives are somehow their own species.
2. That creatives are a “tribish” species, at that. A ping-pong prone one, too.
3. And perhaps not on purpose, but a real perception nonetheless, is that anyone who is not labeled as a member of this paddle-wielding, nothing-they-can’t-Photoshop, nothing they can’t cleverly call-to-action, effortlessly hip, and usually really funny (but often really crabby) creative tribe is, well... not creative.

Creative Labels: Creative. Not Creative. Now, if you are nodding your head and tracking with me here, you probably a crabby, clever, wonderful “creative,” yourself – or you belong to a certain tribe that goes about their own daily rituals within close-proximity of the creatives, crossing over into their midst now and again. You are an account coordinator or executive (creatives are your coworkers), you are a vendor partner like a printer (creatives hire you), or you are a marketing director or a small-business owner (you hire creatives).

Maybe you love working with creatives because you they are inspiring and fun. But maybe you kind of dread it, too? Maybe you feel both ways. That’s okay, creatives make people feel like that. Their crazy sort of rubs off.  But sometimes, frankly, they just rub people the wrong way.

That’s because creatives don’t always make it easy to feel part of the circle.  And that’s a problem. 

Species: Creative Crabbius
Hey Crabby. Yes, You’ve Got Mad Skills.
Okay, so I’m being all covert, and whispery here (that’s what the “pssst” implies, you know like Grover trying to not wake the monster at the end of the book), but I feel you creative, reading these words and either laughing or fuming or being, all like “whatever.”  It’s okay. I’m a crabby creative, too.

And, before crabby turns ugly, I will concede that no, not everyone is creative like you are creative. They do not have the same creative-focused education, the painfully-practiced craft, the Xacto knife skills (don’t ever give an account coordinator an Xacto blade even if they tell you they can help you mock up for a presentation or it will end in a trip to the E.R.). They do not know every nuance of every Buffy episode or understand that there are several shades and textures of black that make for a perfect outfit, and they definitely can’t wear that up-cycled vintage shirt with a blazer with jeans like you can and call it professional.

But really, for most of us, 90% of being a creative is training and practice (with a healthy dose of personal style in there depending on how into the effortlessly hip part you are).  The other 10% is the mojo, the undefinable talent that made you decide to pursue this profession in the first place. I’m not going to say that 10% is not magic. It is. But it’s not the muscle.  The muscle is the creative “lifting” you do every day, it’s where you get your bulk.

Not Creative? Not So. Exercise Your Creative Muscle.
Not Creative? Not So. You Just Use Different Muscles.
So let’s say you work with creatives, in fact depend on them to help you develop a solution or reach a goal.   You want to have input in the process, but you don’t want to step on their toes, or “smother the creative” by being too pushy or overbearing.  Maybe you have the opposite problem, where you have no idea how to communicate to them what you want.

Or perhaps you work inhouse, as a sole marketing person let’s say, where it’s all on your shoulders to lead the creative vision. In your organization you are the only “creative” by default, but you feel overwhelmed and under-heard (somehow at the same time) in that role.

Either way, a little creative exercising can go a long way toward building up your own creative strengths.  So next time you have a meeting with a “creative” and you want to be better prepared to bring your very valid point-of-view to the pow-wow, and get what you actually want from a member of that strange, magical tribe – or if you have to stand up in your own circle and deliver a creative plan of your own – try out one of these muscle-building methods:

1. Use A Picture. Try cutting back on the words, and adding in a healthy dose of drawing. Don’t trust your own skills? Do it anyway. The creatives will think your doodle is charmingly lo-tech (kind of like ironically hip) and the non-creatives will admire you for your skill. The point is not to sketch a Da Vinci but to better represent your challenge or concept.  Sometimes you may think you are verbalizing your point, and everyone is nodding, but until you put pen to paper (like visual expert Dan Roam suggests here), they may be seeing it completely differently in their nodding heads. So sketch it out, Leonardo!

2. Make An Inspiration Board: Cut and paste. Want to get across an idea, a feeling or a mood? Create a vision board.  You can do this by pulling together images online. Pinterest is a great way to curate imagery that inspires you.  Or literally cut and paste. You know, like with scissors, and glue. If you’re afraid it will come off as too craftsy for your round table meeting, make a joke about it – believe me, once the chuckling dies down, the images you share are going to make a much more lasting impression. This is also a great way to communicate a direction you’d like to go to a creative person, without feeling like you are getting to specific with the actual execution.  You know, non-smothery.

3. Think Backwards. Okay, so drawing and clipping aside. A more logical way for you die hard left-brainers to communicate a creative idea or come up with a creative solution is to reverse-engineer it.  Simply draw a point that is your end goal, then start going backwards from there. What are the actions, words, feelings, that have to happen to get there?  This is a great way to “accidentally” write a creative brief – and basically create a road map for others to fill in all the roadside-attraction creative details.  

4. Tell A Good Story. Everyone knows one of the best methods of the greatest public speakers is to tell a real, genuine story. But you don’t need an audience of hundreds (that probably makes some of you break out in a cold sweat thinking about, anyway) you can just have an audience of one, where a story told in your own words can convey a great deal.  

As a creative professional myself, when I have meetings to get to the root of a problem or uncover the culture of an organization, when someone goes into a story, oh man, that’s where the best insights come from.  Use stories to communicate more, and you’ll engage your listeners, you will connect information with emotions, and you will not only feel more creative – but you will inspire creativity in others.

If you think you’re a “not creative?” Try out one of these methods. Already a member of the “creative” tribe? Don’t forget, you get to exercise that muscle more.


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