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What It Means to Me to Say 'I’m a Creative'

It’s not just what I do, but who I am, writes Arc’s Shawn Farrell

Let’s agree to a few starting points: Everybody is working hard. The economy is tough — always a concern. We’re in the midst of a political circus. Clients want more than ever, in some cases for less than ever. And the pressure is on all of us to grow business and make our clients, brands and agencies famous. Needless to say, tensions are high both in and out of work.

But even with all the pressure, even the pressure that comes with my job — one of the things that keeps me feeling positive is my job. Not the title or location or day-to-day grind of it, but the essence of it.

I love to tell people what I do. On a plane. At a party. In a meeting. I love to say this: “I am a creative.” To me, it is a privilege and an honor to be able to use that word when referring to myself. In my mind, there is nothing better. Not doctor, not lawyer, not super-villain. Nothing.

It is a common occurrence in business to sit in meetings with many people, each representing different interests. At some point, inevitably the talk will turn to roles and responsibilities. Ice will break. People will introduce themselves. And when the turn is mine, I will say my name, my company and the word creative. I love that.

In that situation, how would you answer? If you, too, would answer “creative,” here’s to you. And here’s to everyone who works with you, lives with you, loves you.

To me, saying we are creatives says we might understand more than the average person — that we care more than the average person. It says that we see more when we look at something (art, tv, ads) and hear more when we listen (music, friends, street sounds). It says we are committed to improving all that is around us — even if it is just in our own small, personal way.

Saying we are creatives says we are vulnerable. It says we are more sensitive than the average person. It says we might be more easily hurt than the average person. It says we can suffer as others suffer, that we can empathize. That we get your inside joke even if we are outside it. That we are committed to understanding people —their joys and sorrows, their problems and solutions.

Saying we are creatives says we are willing to share bits of our souls with friends and strangers. They can like what we share or not like it, but we are better for sharing. It says we believe in our ideas — that they are worth sharing and perhaps are even better than somebody else’s. It says that even though we might not like it, we are ready to hear what the world thinks about our ideas. Saying that we are creatives says we are vulnerable and we have chosen to be so.

Saying we are creatives says that we promise. It says we promise to work harder than the average person. It says we promise not to stop at one idea. To live by the stance that “good enough” usually isn’t. It says we promise to work until the work is done, not until we are done working. We promise to never share work that comes with an apology. We promise to do what it takes to give our best. It says we promise to dedicate more of ourselves to this work than others can fathom. It says we promise to be committed to the celebration, communication and glorification of the most banal and workaday items one can possibly imagine.

So, why do I bring this up? Why should anybody care about this stuff? Because not only is this what we do, but I hope it can be who we are. And I get it — it is not easy. We live with shrinking budgets and shortening timelines. The business is capricious, with changes coming in at the last minute that make no sense. These times and circumstances can feel overwhelming and out of our control. But it is exactly these times and circumstances that should bring out the best in us. These are the times and circumstances that call for creative, can-do solutions, brought about by creative, can-do people.

These are the times and circumstances that make us stand up and be creatives.

Shawn Farrell is SVP, creative director with Arc Worldwide, part of the Leo Burnett Group.

The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Leo Burnett Group.