Less Creative, Please!


The word “creative” is played out. We should start using it more sparingly. “Creative” is another in a long line of ruined-by-overuse words — along with “beautiful” and “interesting” and “lieutenant.”

The dictionary says that “creative” is marked by (a) creating new things or (b) thinking of new ideas. I’d like to propose we reserve the word “creative” only for those who do both — who think of new ideas and then create them.

This is based on a Facebook discussion I had recently. I posed a question, “Are actors artists?” I asked because I have a ton of actorly friends (and three times as many wildly opinionated friends), and I was wondering what role originality should play in artistry. Could someone who read other peoples’ lines be defined as “creating art”?

One guy replied that anytime anyone — painter, writer, carpenter, or cook — makes a choice that isn’t laid out for them, they are creating art (and are, I assume, qualifiable as “artists”). The key part is that the choices aren’t pre-determined or scripted. In other words, an artist must (a) think of a new idea, and then (b) create a new thing — our new definition for “creative.”

I suppose I’m just irked by how often people self-label as “creative.” I’ve done this myself in the past.

Q: “Andrew, what’re three words you former co-workers might use to describe you?”
A: “I think they’d say I’m smart, easy to work with, and (DRUMROLL!!) creative!”

Icky, right? Because for me, it’s not always true. I’m pretty good at (a) thinking of new ideas and then (b) not doing anything with them. Or, alternatively, I’ve done plenty of (a) making things while (b) not thinking of anything new.

I do both simultaneously rarer than I’d like, and usually occurs only when I’m writing. In writing, I’m thinking of new ideas and bringing them into being.

I’m no musician. I can’t paint for shit. My culinary skills are standard for the modern American bachelor. I don’t choreograph dance numbers. I think and I write. That’s my meager attempt at artistry.

Still, I’m loathe to freely call myself “creative” because I don’t create nearly often enough. And perhaps that’s a good question to ask ourselves: “Am I creating? Regularly?”

You want a Maserati? You’d better work.

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