That Doesn’t Make You Creative

You know what the world needs? Another article about CREATIVITY. (That’s me being ironic, folks.)

Everywhere you turn, somebody is writing about how creativity can TRANSFORM your business or IS your business or DAMN WELL BETTER BE your business. And there are many, many people who are happy to tell you/show you/teach you how to be be more creative…for a small fee, of course.

To my eye, lots of it is fairly harmless and there are nuggets of good advice to be found.

But what makes me roll my eyes is the idea that only certain people are the TRUE purveyors of creativity. A creative type. The guardians of “the craft.”

My sensitivity on this may stem from the fact that I work in the advertising industry where “creative” is actually a job title. And I can’t lie: it feels pretty good when it’s applied to you.

But, it’s also horse shit.

The label is often used to project power and status — to make a certain person’s ideas “more valuable” than anybody else’s and keep others in their place. It’s about protecting turf. It’s about ego.

Yes, some people are legitimately better at it than others. Real creativity isn’t a we’re-all-equal-and-everybody’s-contribution-is-just-as-good group hug.

But it’s also NOT a lot of the things that people hold up as markers of “creativity.”

So, for the record…

Your job title doesn’t make you creative.

Your clothes don’t make you creative.

Your haircut doesn’t make you creative.

Your tattoos don’t make you creative.

Your beard doesn’t make you creative.

Your glasses don’t make you creative.

Your piercings don’t make you creative.

Your industry doesn’t make you creative.

Your gender doesn’t make you creative. (Gah. Does that even need to be said?)

Your degree from portfolio/art/film school doesn’t make you creative.

Your skateboard/scooter/alternative mode of transportation doesn’t make you creative.

Your music collection (on vinyl, of course) doesn’t make you creative.

Your office decor/art collection/vintage movie poster doesn’t make you creative.

Your Cannes Lion/One Show Pencil/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-award doesn't make you creative.

Your media coverage doesn’t make you creative.

I’d even suggest that making something doesn’t necessarily make you creative. (Copying isn’t creative, it’s following a recipe.)

And for my money, I don’t think talent makes you creative.

What does?

Being “creative” is about doing something new.

And the best “creative” work changes something.


That’s a lot more rare than the zillion and one things most of us call “creative” on a daily basis. But it’s also a lot less exclusive than the output from one anointed group.

About the Author

John Kovacevich is a writer and creative director based in San Francisco. He’s often mistaken for the account guy, which may explain some of his passion on this topic.

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