How the corporate world FUBARed ‘creative’

REMEMBER: Next Friday is Hawaiian t-shirt day. 

The greatest compliment I’ve ever received from an editor was at a community newspaper.

As the conversation moved into some of the quirks of staff writers, the editor said, “Most often I have to tell writers to inject a little more colour into their writing. With you Brian, I have to remove it.”

Now, that can be perceived as a fault. But not for someone like me. I entered the industry of journalism without a degree in it. My undergrad was archaeology. I went to the University of Toronto and toiled in the trenches – literally. But even my archaeology professors were surprised that I still had an imagination.

When I graduated and was wondering what the hell I should do, I turned to my extracurriculars.

I wasn’t fully taking my career path seriously. I just ambled about in a stupor, trying to make my honours B.A. useful. After $25,000 later, I needed to make myself and my family (since I was the first to go to university and graduate) feel like the money wasn’t frittered away.

I ran the student newspaper, so, citing the words of business development consultant from The Window’s visits to the Toronto Star, I realized I really didn’t need a degree to be a journalist. I just needed a passion to write.

Now, how that relates to the headline of this here post is simple: I’m creative. My imagination still runs non-stop. My mind is filled with music, movies and literature. I can pull a song out of my head to fit any moment. Say a word, and a song comes to mind.

It’s a bizarre talent but it illustrates just how creative I am. During my youth, being sick and in hospitals, or being bullied in school, my imagination was my best friend.

So, forgive me when I take great umbrage with how corporations have altered the meaning of creative to meet their needs.

I see writing as an art, and the greatest crime committed against creative types is using the word to market analytical skills.

What the corporate world does, however, with this thing called creative is they make it a measurable quality. They relate it to problem-solving. It loses that quality.

That’s not the creative I grew up with. That’s not the creative I know and love. That’s logic. That’s analysis. It’s not creative. Please don’t take the word from artists and skewer it like Father Brennan in The Omen.

In my OAC drama class (Grade 13 for those who didn’t go to high school in Ontario from 1984 to 2003), an old friend interpreted the two pillars of the English department through hand gestures.

He raised his left hand, “This is Chaos”. He raised his right hand, “This is Control”. He locked them together. “When we put them together we have perfect harmony.” There were two offices in our English department and they were aptly called, Chaos and Control. The drama branch was naturally Chaos.

I was a drama geek. Not the lead, of course, but if you want to quote Constantin Stanislavski go ahead. I loved being creative but knew full well acting wasn’t my true outlet. I wrote. I’ve been writing on my own before I was reading.

Grade 2 was when I started. I wrote stories about Madballs and Magnum P.I. My mom still has a book I self-published for either Grade 2 or 3. Speaking of Grade 2, I once shared in show-and-tell that a dead body had been removed from the basement of our Brampton townhouse and it was on CityTV. Hilarity (and embarrassment for my poor mom) ensued. My imagination had a vivacity that often flirted with the macabre – even for a 7-year-old.

The word creative, when written by human resources professionals in job postings, means something on the opposite side of the spectrum for someone like me who still dreams of being a horror novelist.

Imagination is something adult society pooh-poohs on. Yet, HR people, who have about as much creativity (in their jobs) as Dr. Sheldon Cooper on Ritalin, are throwing it around like it’s confetti at a Texas-sized wedding.

That is the true meaning of chaos.


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Toronto-based journalist, fighting the power one deadline at a time.

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