Creative is as creative does
I can’t really draw. Or dance. But I love dancing. My grade 4 music teacher thought I had pipes though, and “invited” me to join the choir. Unbeknownst to me she had invited every kid to join the choir. But it was her affirmation of my perceived angelic voice that has molded my belief that with a little bit of practice I could still belt out a killer tune.
Too often our confidence and notions of what it means to be creative are shaped as a result of misguided and uninformed opinions, or worse, a very narrow definition of “creative” and “creativity”. Given the chance to allow creativity to be broadly defined, there isn’t a soul on this planet who isn’t scheming (creating ways) to get through the day, or do awesome shit. From end to end we’re all knee deep in it, each in our own ways.
A friend and I started a small digital agency in 2009. We thought we were pioneers cause 98.7% of all sites were still pretty shitty, and as designers/developers (and I, a salesman) we thought what could do better. This statistic doesn’t seem to have improved much over the years, and so, we continue to plug away – he as lead UID at CAE, and myself in varying roles from the totally digitally dependent to the old school Willy Loman-esque death-by-cold-calling type role.
It hasn’t always been easy, or fun for that matter. The process has become what interests me most, and what’s key is to appreciate the part of the process a) that best suits you, and b) where you can be the most effective. Parts where even the mundane can save or make you money, and parts where sound minds must prevail. Parts everybody wants, and parts nobody wants or can stomach.
As the project manager for my team, I find myself managing not only the expectations of clients, but also the egos and set-in-stone ways of the designers and developers we engage. One needs to be creative in order to manage creatives, and I’m sure there are a lot of nodding heads out there (unless you’re a stubborn creative or self-admitted needy client) who know just what I’m getting at here.
As a young business and as the person within that (two-person) business charged with growing exposure, and hopefully sales, I came across the Social Media Breakfast while surfing (is it not cool to say “surfing” anymore?) online looking for networking events to go to in and around Montreal. On a whim I reached out to the organization’s founder and asked whether they were tied in with any groups in Montreal. There’d been one, but it never took off. A few email exchanges later we had the go to move forward as the Montreal chapter of the SMB.
With zero event planning experience, we scraped together some of the initial events. Thanks to the awesome food and venue provided courtesy of my great friend Dana of La Bistrote down in Griffintown, not to mention the quality speakers we were fortunate enough to land in the early going, a band of faithful supporters (and great friends helping co-organize) began to believe and turn out regularly.
From the early days of purchasing projectors for an event, only to return them the day after, now that I think about it, I can claim having done some pretty creative workarounds to our zero dollar budgets. It was also a pretty unique way to make friends and immerse myself in the digital space here in Montreal, which may not have otherwise happened had I chosen instead to just frequent a few events around town.
I always hesitated to place that "creative" label on myself, like I’m sure a lot of people out there not involved in the conventionally creative will also likely do. I’m here to tell those people that they are wrong to assume this, and that I’ve been wrong to assume this. The sooner we realize that we suffer from refusing or denying ourselves the right to affix upon us that label, the better off we’ll be.
Think about it. I call creative managing to squeeze in breakfast, a shower, a deuceskie, and some Candy Crush in the hour before the 3 kids have to get out for school. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a small miracle. Some days, I feel like a magician, and I know there are tons of other people out there pulling off stuff like this every day… hours before they get to work.
Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be immersed in one single thing where at the end a masterpiece is unveiled. It’s about moments. Creative moments. Moments you need to acknowledge, reinforce, and rinse/wash/repeat as often as possible. Sometimes you’ll be at it without knowing – but that’s the beauty of it.
Taking a risk can be a creative thing. Failing at something even. But unless you shake the preconceived notions that this label – creative – does not define you or any part of what you do, you're only limiting your capacity to innovate.
I’ve battled with the idea that, because my hands aren’t those making things or making things better, any contribution I make to a creative process is less important. What’s helped me is realizing I’ve pigeon-holed the definition for far too long, and much prefer these definitions and/or variations thereof.
Don’t make the same mistake. See the creative in what you do. It makes things more fun. Who doesn’t like fun?
Photo: Mushroom Choir, Scott Robinson/flickr