Oh creativity, a word laced with so much politics. Or maybe it’s just me. As I start putting my theme word into action, today I want to talk a little about reconnecting creatively.
Having spent the better part of my 20s working at ad agencies, I feel like I was brainwashed into thinking I had no creative value. I found I was constantly asking myself “am I creative? ” then quickly answering back, “no, I’m not!” There are such delineated crafts in our industry and although agencies like to say that “good ideas can come from anywhere,” in reality, the hierarchy at agencies goes something like this.
Creatives are supreme.
Strategists are smart.
Account people do the dirty work.
Yes, you can add value by having good relationships, keeping the budget flowing, making sure things are running on schedule, but as a middle manager account person your role is not to be creative, that is someone else’s job.
The above is an oversimplified and blanketed statement. I know that not every agency is like this. I know there has been a lot of movement in the last few years to de-silo the structure and this is not a blog post on the ins and outs of agencies. So for the sake of my story, the above is just a personal reflection of my time spent working in the ad world and how it shaped me.
My agency time had a way of branding my thinking about my own abilities regardless of what I believed prior. You see, I never labeled myself as creative vs. non-creative before I began working.
In middle school I was a scrapbooker. I created page after page of collages. I took pictures and made them into art. Maybe it wasn’t very good art, but it was art all the same.
In high school, and well before actually, I wrote. Journal after journal of ideas, thoughts, feelings. I wrote songs and poems, fiction and personal letters of encouragement. I took dance, ceramics, doodled.
In college, I found yoga, I took a semester of tai kwon do, I wrote and read and debated and never once asked myself, “am I creative?” It was either not important or never occurred to me that I needed a label. I just experimented, tried on new hobbies and created as seemed fit.
Then came the decade of labels and conforming to those labels. Not wanting to step on toes and getting a few eye rolls if I did. I was pigeon holed and even worse, allowed it to creep into life outside my job. I, of course, kept up with yoga but I no longer wrote, danced or tried anything artsy. It wasn’t who I was, so why even bother?
This went on for way longer then I’d like to admit.
I’ve been away from the ad world for more than 3 years now but it wasn’t until just recently that I started to see how greatly those years branded the view of my own creativity. When you tell yourself a story over and over again , you begin to see it as truth and the better part of a decade in an environment that makes your truth feel like a reality is hard to shake.
But, as my distance from advertising lengthened, my buried creative outlets began to reemerge and I began reconnecting creatively. This is not to say that I suddenly felt confident in my creative abilities. I still found myself obsessing about the creative areas I didn’t excel at : photography, photoshop, web design instead of focusing on the creative skills I do have: writing, sequencing, storytelling. Although I was still questioning my creativity, at least I was beginning to bring the creative process back into my life.
Over the past few years, my new roles at a start-up, as a yoga teacher, blogger, freelance writer began to reshape the preconceived notions I had about myself. It was as if I unceremoniously stepped over an invisible divide, suddenly I was allowing myself the chance to create, make, experiment again.
Labels, environments, peers, social media, they all play a role in keeping us from expressing our creative selves. Fear is a powerful dissuader. What if they don’t like it? What if no one reads it? What if they don’t think I’m smart, supreme? These are all possibilities. There will likely be someone who can take a better photo, write a better blog post. There will probably be someone who can choreograph, paint, sing, act, better as well. But at least you’re a part of the creation, at least you aren’t allowing labels to dictate your life. The Fresh Exchange just wrote a great post on writing without fear that, although is specific to blogging, has some great advice on taking that creative leap.
So, if you’ve been thinking about starting that new art project, dabbling in refinishing furniture, experimenting in the kitchen, starting a blog, taking a photography class, heading to a new exhibit, I encourage you to put fear aside and start reconnecting creatively.
You may even find that one little creative outlet can turn into larger, more fulfilling endeavors.
Enjoy and Exhale!