As our CEO Chase Jarvis likes to point out, a lot of 9-5 / office jobs require creativity to solve problems and come up with new ways of doing things. And yet, a lot of people who absolutely utilize creative methods and modes of thinking on a daily basis wouldn’t consider using the term “creative” (as a noun) to refer to themselves. So what does it take? Do you actually call yourself creative?
Creative Something’s Tanner Christensen wrote a thoughtful piece on the subject earlier this year, diving into what it means to be a creative person in a world where everyone, it seems, is trying to create.
“Ultimately being “creative” requires that you produce ideas that are original and valuable, of course. But when nothing is original and when we’re forced to ask: “valuable for who?” calling yourself creative becomes muddy water.
So, is it fair to call yourself a creative if you haven’t invented a new standard for tech production? Can a starving artist who sells only one painting a year (for just a few bucks, nonetheless) still be considered creative? What about the amateur writer without a book deal, or even really a completed chapter, is she creative too?
I’m going to say yes, as long as the thinking is there.”
The thinking, and the way we think about ourselves, it seems — and the inspiration and/or motivation that comes with the thinking — is the root of using the word “creative” as a self-referential term. Because, if we’ve studied the world of “traditional” business at all, we know that job titles can be hugely motivational, even when they don’t actually matter for payscale, and that they can be used by both employers and employees as a matter of leverage. So maybe calling yourself “a creative” is a kind of personal leverage — do you hold yourself to a higher creative standard when you’re self-applying the title?
“The people who love their craft and see themselves as artists, and carry that identity through and study each day, who use walking down the street as a place to study and observe, who absorb every person they meet because they don’t know when that person might show up in an artistic endeavor, are the people who thrive,” he explained in an interview, “To me, that’s the only definition of success that matters.”
Ownership over creativity may also be a difficult thing for those of us who were raised in a society which is, by and large, fairly uncreative. As Hans Zimmer recently noted in the short film “Inspiring Creativity,” it’s very difficult to retain a sense of creativity.
“You go through your formative years, usually in school, where everybody’s trying to knock the creativity out of you,” he explained, “And it takes some stubbornness for creativity to survive.”
Dr. Mauer has also found ties to identity and perseverance; essentially, being able to hold on to a creative identity can help empower an artist to weather hard times.
“Successful people are able to sustain their identity as separate from their profession and what’s happening to them. That’s particularly important in the arts, where what happens to you bears only faint correlation to your talent.”
In the end, I think Christensen made the strongest point about the use of “creative” as a noun on Twitter, which is that it’s, at its heart, a personal decision:
Let people call themselves creative. Why stifle their possibilities by telling them otherwise?
— Tanner Christensen (@tannerc) April 16, 2014
Do you use the word “creative” to refer to yourself? Why or why not? Take out poll and tell us in the comments.