I once read an advertising executive refer to her full-service agency as having a separate division of "creatives" on staff.
Whom were these "creatives," I wondered, that the executive had referred to so pretentiously? And what about all the slighted "non-creatives" on staff? Hath not an accountant an imagination?
I envisioned the so-called "creatives" as a team of pale monkish types with wasted bodies locked in a dimly lit room, their bald heads conjoined by electrodes while resting in a warm pool -- not unlike the "precogs" in the sci-fi film Minority Report.
This was the first time I had heard reference to a special creative class of workers and concluded that I, too, must be a creative.
While working in the early 1990s in public relations for a Fortune 500 company (rhymes with "Be-Me"), the most creative thing I remember doing was conspiring ways to look busy in order to justify my billable hours, which were measured in 15-minute increments on my timesheet. Now that took some creativity!
At lunch, for kicks my fellow creatives and I would wear white lab coats over our suits and roam the airplane-hanger-size plant, occasionally stopping by a random engineer's work station. We'd shake our heads disapprovingly, scribble imaginary notes on a clipboard, and then walk away.
Perhaps my most creative accomplishment during my year-and-a-half stint there was to leave a Reader's Digest article entitled "I am Joe's Aneurism" that I found in my mother-in-law's bathroom on the desk of one of the project managers.
Weeks later, the project manager stopped by my desk elated.
"Kipp, I'd kiss you if you were a girl!" he said. Apparently, the article would serve as the impetus for a new half-million dollar national television ad campaign.
I've been thinking a lot about creativity and where it comes from since the publication of my childhood memoir, Barracuda in the Attic (Fantagraphics 2013), qualifying me as a full member of the creative class.
After all, everyone in my family is a creative artist who has had at least one book published. Now it was my turn to fulfill my family birthright -- or, at least, to carve out some space for myself on my bookshelf alongside my family members' many books.
In my father's literary memoir, Lucky Bruce (Biblioasis 2011), he speculated that he would have probably become a doctor or lawyer -- instead of a writer -- had his mother not dropped him from the changing table, forever altering his future. My mother once sheepishly admitted to having dropped my oldest brother Josh from the changing table and Josh went on to become a gifted musician and writer. I'm not aware of my middle brother Drew having been dropped, but he would eventually become a renowned cartoonist and illustrator. Even my mother, a retired acting and auditioning coach, has had several books published. Later in life, she claimed her mother used to whack her on the head, but my mother's always been a bit of a drama queen.
As for me, I remember Josh playfully hurling me from a band shell when I was about three. I landed with a thud face-first in a mound of sand, chipping my front tooth. Could this be the reason why I went on to pursue a career in the creative class: first as a newspaper reporter, then public relations, then professional photography, and now writing? Years later, I dropped my son, Max, during a midnight feeding and viola! He became the first architect in our family line.
I'm not suggesting that dropping children from changing tables or flinging them from band shells is a means to foster creativity in a child. I'll leave that theory to behavioral scientists-perhaps a future TEDTalk?
But one thing I'm certain of is that my parents raised us in an environment where creative self-expression was not only allowed, but encouraged.
As the youngest son of a celebrated writer whose career has spanned over half a century, I've heard stories all my life. My father has always had a habit of altering things, embellishing them, making them seem bigger and more special that perhaps they were. It's as if he had been hardwired to ask: what if? Everything could be a launching point for another story, and that was something my brothers and I picked up on and were encouraged to do.
My son, Max, once came to me for writing advice while struggling with an English paper in grade school. I told him that when he is writing, he's God -- not in a religious sense, but as the source, the creator. This advice seemed to free him up to express himself and I now consider him a wonderful writer. Years later, I was proud to hear him still refer to this bit of writing advice I had given him as a child.
Now what can possibly be more creative than God?
Unless, of course, you're a creative at an ad agency that bills at 15-minute increments.