Does that seem like a daft question?
Why are footballers sporty? Why are politicians political?
In Campaign magazine dated 29th July 2016 there was a question put to Jeremy Bullmore in his ‘on the campaign couch with JB‘ column.
It read : Dear Jeremy A lot of creatives also write books. Why?
JB’s answers are usually insightful, witty and even occassionally scything, but it appeared that even he was unsure.
He replied: What a funny question. Why does anyone write a book? Fame, self-importance, immortality, irresistible urge…I think that’s about it…..(and then he continues to write about the lack of good copywriters due to the decline of long copy ads and the rise of ‘content’ etc)
In the same edition was a huge double page spread featuring an interview with Sir Ken Robinson talking about Creative cultures, the state of education and why adland should drop the ‘creative’ label.
Mostly the peice was about the lack of Education’s investment in the creative arts, and it finished with a claim about how creatives shouldn’t be called creatives any more and the whole agency should be creative, as labelling some people ‘creative’ inhibits other department’s creativity.
(If you have a few minutes to spare, while pretending to work, check out Sir Ken’s famous TED talk, now with upwards of 40 million views. It’s truly inspirational and touches on a lot of insights regarding the nature of creativity and how we stifle it in an attempt to prepare everyone for a ‘real job’.)
Now these two articles, related only by the subject of creativity, touched some deep irony nerve in my lower intestine and forced their way up to my larynx and popped out of my gob as a rather limp ‘hmmm’.
On one hand we have someone who doesn’t get why creative people need to create stuff beyond their job description and on the other we have a well respected guru who wants to end the label of ‘creatives’ within agencies. Because everyone is creative really.
Somewhere there’s a disconnect. And some confusion as to what distinguishes, if distinguishing is necessary, the rest of the agency from their ‘creative’ brothers and sisters.
It must be more than tattoos and pink hair.
JB’s first instinct was to suppose it was ‘fame and fortune’ that drives people to be creative.
He almost throws away the notion of ‘irresistable urge’ as a joke.
I mean, an urge? an urge is what you have when you want to climb a mountain, have a chocolate binge or play Fifa on the Playstation – isn’t it?
It’s a passing phase.
But to my mind he was closer with the ‘urge’ theory than the others.
Ask any creative in your agency why they are creative and they won’t really be able to tell you, well not definitively. But they will probably tell you they have always been that way, maybe not artistically in the traditional sense of painting or writing… maybe they made model airplanes, maybe they wrote songs or poems, or built contraptions or arranged flowers. Maybe they built tree houses or constructed Lego or cooked, I dunno.
Because creativity is an urge…
And the main reason people do it is rarely fame and fortune.
Yes, these are pleasant bi-products of the ‘urge’ but its not the prime motivator. If you already have a job underwriting Insurance and feel the need to paint in the evening, you my friend are a creative. You just don’t know it.
It doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at painting mind you, but you’re still compelled to create none the less.
Creativity is a lot like sex drive in that regard.
You create something, are momentarily at peace and then the drive builds again.
For some people it works for them to combine that drive with making a living, and like salmon swimming upstream to their spawning grounds they find themselves in the creative department of an ad agency.
So the answer to JB’s questioner, why do a lot of creatives write books?
It’s because they can’t help themselves.
Maybe, to Sir Ken’s point, your agency creatives are just the ones who didn’t have it educated out of them.
And it’s also the reason why they sometimes can be more childlike, more head in the clouds. More eccentric even.
We do all have the creative gene and the propensity to create.
But do we all have the urge?