I hear the word “creative” about 142 times each day. And as I would with any word I hear that often, I began to question what it really means. In the marketing and advertising community, it’s very generic; “creative” describes the work an agency produces or a person’s thought process. Or it can describe an individual and their role. Inundated with definitions, I think we have lost the true meaning of what it means to be a Creative.
As a self-professed Creative and a creative director, I can definitely say that the word is both overused and misused. Let’s start with the context of a title. Being labeled a Creative prescribes you glasses, fits you into skinny jeans, and a gives you a particular taste in music, coffee, and people. Ironically, I fit into that stereotype—but I reject it completely. Why? Because it has absolutely nothing to do with creating.
The word “create” means to bring something new into existence. So, if you want to look the part, your work better speak louder than your vinyl collection or your haircut. The title doesn’t belong to every creative thinker in the marketing/advertising world. People are wrapped up in the theatre of what they think today’s ad/marketing professional is supposed to be. Can you be a creative thinker? Of course. But don’t downplay what it means to truly bring that idea to life.
Crafting something is what defines it. Write the copy or code, design the ad, direct the photo shoot, and don’t stop short at talking about it.
How do we close the curtain on the theatrics and get back to the core of what we are supposed to do? I thought about it for a while and came up with the core traits that I believe reach beyond persona and make someone a true Creative:
Working on an ad campaign or the next great web app is fantastic creative work. But let’s be honest, it’s only half the challenge. A Creative can be tasked with deadlines, communication issues, political pitfalls, and egos. Being flexible in the sea of bullshit makes you stronger. If you remain rigid, both you and your idea will break.
You must love the process. You have to desire feedback with a good team you can trust. If you want your copy, art, or code to inspire thought or action, expose it to time and thought.
Be diligent and hardworking. This to me is absolutely the most important piece. You have to care about your work more than your persona simply because something inside of you demands that you get better.
If you love the craft, you want to learn about it is much as you can. Be nosey about the shop across the street, take time to investigate other creative work, and be willing to measure yourself against others in a healthy way.
This is the key ingredient for great collaboration. Creative ideas can come from anywhere, but you have to pull your ego back a little to allow the idea to reach its potential. And whatever you do, give yourself room to learn from your mistakes.
The key to being creative isn’t any single ingredient, but an eclectic combination of many. You can’t claim your title until you’ve learned to let go of the theatrics and combine the traits of a true Creator. Anything that is not a part of true creation is just part of the show.
Michael is the chief creative officer of FoxFuel Creative. He loves British music, vintage German cars, and American history—and his sarcasm know no borders. #DreamBig