A Day in the Creative Life: Mess Theory.

One of the problems with having apprentice creatives trailing you every minute of every day is that every now and then you give them a little insight into the magic that is your life time’s work. Try as you might to protect your hard fought intellectual property rights from the prying curiosity of strangers there’s no avoiding the moments when you utter a giveaway line which illuminates their consciousness and bingo. A hard won trade secret is out of the bag.

The flip chart is a case in point. Many people fail to recognise the potential of the humble flip chart and the outsize pages of low grade papyrus which are frequently lodged onto it with blue tack, hair clips, nails or with whatever comes to hand. Derided by many as a poor mans management tool for corporate Away Days (and yet interestingly accompanied by intoxicating flip chart markers, available in many interesting primary colours of red green and blue plus of course the intensely interesting and alluring black, a colour which never fails to fascinate me when it comes to being a scribe in all those terminal management meetings), the flip chart is coming a poor third in those days of shiny PowerPoint presentations, or even worse those sea sickening Prezi efforts, more of which anon.

What many fail to recognise (apart from Lynn, who now knows only too well the advantages of flip chart technology thanks to me) is that that the flip chart flip is easily screwed up, cut up, torn up, scribbled upon, used as a convenient receptacle for errant dog muck and pretty much any other useage you can conjure up. Its potential for mess  is endless and this is what makes it the perfect tool for the magic that is my job.

Lynn has had an epiphanic moment when it comes to the flip chart. When she started as my apprentice, her flip chart requirements were modest. One sheet of A0 flip,  two little knobs of Blue Tac and one red felt tip which had seen better days writing on toilet walls somewhere in the staff canteen of the multinational conglomerate. Since her apprenticeship began though, she has taken to the flip chart mission with a vengeance. She carries around unpacked packages around where ever she goes. She’ll unwrap one at the drop of a hat, tear it up, cut it up, fold it, distort it and cause paper mayhem of all kinds. The mess she generates is impressive, even by my standards.

She’ll then proceed to write, draw, scribble or carve out her name on what ever scrap of paper she can find and then stands over her efforts, waving her marker pen triumphantly in the air as yet another corporation problem has been solved. On more than one occasion she has been applauded by her unwitting audience of factory operatives who then proceed to thank her for solving an intractable production problem.

I curse the day I introduced her to the magic of the flip and the flip chart. Something has to be done.

A Day in the Creative Life: kill your darlings.

I’ve unexpectedly grown quite fond of my apprentice creatives since we first met over a skinny fat café olé. They all remind me of me so we’re all off to a surprisingly good start.

Matthew’s a good looking chap with a spring in his step and a bouncy quiff perched on the top of his shiny red head although he is a bit dim; Mark’s a keen cyclist with legs like tree trunks and shoulder pads to match but drinks like a fish; seven foot Luke can do no wrong when it comes to serving up tea and my favourite biscuits at all hours of the day; Maggie has a keen laser like analytical brain which she applies with great aplomb to online crosswords; Meg bounces around the office like a Labrador puppy and breeds her infectious laugh wherever she goes; Lynn has a rare talent in flip chart management and Joan completes a perfect team with her ability to ask searching questions of everyone she bumps into. She will go far.

Actually, they will all go far and I’m here to show them how far they can go in their chosen career of professional Creative. The only disappointment so far has been John who sadly disappeared during the visit to the factory when I showed him the machinery our multinational conglomerate uses to dispose of the trash it generates as a result of its many production processes. Whether it’s making widgets, shiny new computers or garden equipment, the waste disposal complex is an impressive site to visit for all staff, never mind new recruits as it always serves as a sobering reminder of where we’re all headed towards the end of our days.

And alas, John seems to have found the end of his days sooner than anyone would have expected but I’m sure his mum will understand. All that’s been found has been a pair of flip flops with his name etched into the soles. Dear John. We all commiserated for a while until Luke cheered us all up with a brew and unopened packet of Jaffa Cakes.

A Day in the Creative Life: possibility thinking and what ifs.

Mathew Mark Luke and John, bless the bed that I lie on.
Maggie Meg Lynn and Joan, how can I get you all sent home?

The life of the Creative is not, contrary to misguided civilian opinion, all about making product, delivering services or filing a new patent every hour on the hour. Whilst I am fervently occupied much of the week in all those activities, the work of the true Creative is done in not the doing of things but being flat on one’s back, looking out the window and reflecting.

The eight ‘Young Creatives’ that have been foisted upon me by personnel bear an uncanny resemblance to various Old Testament figures who would be better off attempting to lead the Labour Party than they would trying to usurp me as The Creative for the multinational conglomerate for which we all find ourselves sharing office sofas, laptops and broadband width.

Quite how I am going to gainfully occupy them is anybody’s guess so I am using the Lord’s Day to consider the possibilities and the what ifs: a useful tactic in the operational thinking armoury.

Whether you’re two or ninety two years old, thinking through the possibilities is essential if you need to maintain your rightful place in your organisational food chain. Calculating the consequences of the ‘what ifs’ is also paramount if you want to ensure that you’re not deemed the cause of any unfortunate accident that might fall upon anyone else who might want to disrupt your place in that organisational food chain.

Mathew Mark Luke and John; how do I get you off my back?
Maggie Meg Lynn and Joan, how can I get you all the sack?

A Day in the Creative Life: unlock your creativity.

I have agreed to return to my day job and refrain from challenging the mid ranking personnel powers any more than they’ve already been challenged. Back in the land of grey and pink that is the multinational global conglomerate, the notion that everyone is now a Creative (or at least can demonstrate a modicum of creative genius) is now plât de jour and I have accepted that proposition with magnamity.

Civilians say you should pray to St Anthony when you lose your keys. One word in Saint Tony’s ear and hey presto love your keys will miraculously appear in the place you least suspect them. You can presumably pray for a key to unlock your creativity, presuming you’ve lost that too.

The new young recruits who lined up today for my course in ‘Unlock Your Creativity’ (the agreement I made with the multinational conglomeration in order to keep my status as Lead Creative in aforesaid conglomerate) have clearly mislaid their creativity keys in a wide variety of hidey holes. They’re a motley crew of no-hopers, mis-placers and dead losses and quite how I am going to help unlock their creativity beggars the imagination. The line up of the eight ‘Young Creatives (as they’ve been labelled) I’m facing is at best implausible, at worst, deluded.

But I shall do my best. Up to a point. Just in case any of these ne’er-do-wells have a smidgen of creativity locked away in their souls (assuming that’s where it’s been lost), then the last thing I need to do is open it up, cause further mayhem and inadvertently lose my job in the process. Unlocking creativity is much like shaking up a bottle of Coca Cola and then unscrewing the cap. Everyone gets very sticky very quickly and if you’re not careful the shirt on your back starts dissolving into a nasty brown fizzing mess. And some one usually pays the price.

So I shall start slowly and carefully and keep an eye out for anyone who looks remotely creative. Everyone may well be creative these days if you believe the hype – but some are more creative then others and they’re the ones who’ll cause trouble for the rest of us.

A Day in the Creative Life: thinking outside the boxes.

Well, Mr Mid Ranking personnel manager, you may cheerfully wave us all off from the safety of your platform on that journey of yours to Destination Oblivion, but this passenger is having none of it. What your mid ranking mind set forgets is that us Creatives – and this Creative in particular – are renowned for our ability to act lean, behave mean and think outside any inconvenient box you put in our way.

Because Mr Mid Ranking personnel manager, this Creative has no intention of letting you call the shots about which journey I’m going on and how I get there. And let me tell you for why.

The typical day in the life of the Creative involves constant struggle against the status quo, permanently challenging accepted social norms and disrupting the common sense of common people. Our struggle means that the likes of you Mr. Mid Ranking, as a non-Creative, can hand us over any kind of problem you like, knowing full well that whilst we might cause you some temporary discomfort, your problem will in the end be solved by us applying our differently wired neural pathways and unique aesthetic taste to that problem. Us Creatives generate solutions for you non-Creatives and once in a while we have to take stock and realise that we have to apply our thinking to our own lives and dig ourselves out of any holes we may have inadvertently fallen into.

So you may very well stand there on the platform smiling and waving at me in this train carriage to nowhere but the fact is that I can jump out of any box in the blink of an eye and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Look: here I am, standing next to you, staring into your shiny shaven face. See that, now I’m looking down and waving at you from up in the rafters and whoops – look again Mr Mid Ranking because here I am on another platform shouting at you from afar. And hey presto, here I am again standing right up close and personal next to you again because I can and because for me there are no boxes you can confine me to, no carriages you can consign me to and no trains to the end of the world you can assign me to. Because I sir am the Creative in this infinitely huge corporation and your boxes mean nothing to me.

What do you mean, here’s your P45?

I, sir, am not your employee. I am a freelancer. Do you know what that means? Free as in unencumbered. Un-owned. At liberty to take my services anywhere I choose. Lancer as in I have a long sturdy pointy weapon which I use to lance boils, whether they be of a social cultural or economic nature. I am The Boil Lancer Extraordinaire so if you think you can get me to sign in some poxy box on your form then I suggest you think again before this lance freely finds its way up your arse.

Next!

A Day in the Creative Life: we’re all going on a journey.

We’re all going on a journey. How many times have I said that when it comes to explaining the creative process to civilians who don’t know their process from their product?

And here it is, being used on me.

I had started the day in quite good form, determined not to let the revelations that the corporation was about to appoint a second Creative to their ranks disturb my inner sanctimoniousness. The very fact of typing that possibility makes me gag, but type it I must and face up to it I have no choice.

I was midway through innovating the packaging of widgets when some mid ranking personnel executive strolled up to me, enquired about my health and promptly told me ‘we’re all going on a journey’.

I held my nerve for a bit and politey enquired where this journey was starting, where its end point was and what I could expect to visit on the way but he was noncommittal and refused to rule out anything whilst ruling in everything.

“It’s an organic journey,” he explained carefully. “It’s going to emerge and we’re all going to evolve together In a collective shared experience which emphasises our common humanity whilst recognising our dreams and fears and addressing our strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats, particularly in relation to our recently implemented personal growth charter also known as the corporation’s behaviour modification programme.”

So far so bad. “An organic journey? How fascinating.” I replied, barely able to disguise my disgust at his misappropriation of my previously cherished metaphor. “So much more engaging than an inorganic journey don’t you think?” He nodded cheerily, bade me farewell and continued his stroll up the five mile long production line which disappeared over the horizon.

We’re going on a fucking journey love and I’ve been sat in the cattle truck to hell next to some squealing civilians who have sensed they’re about to get a fat cheque and are already plotting on how to splash their cash in the most obscene ways possible. A new Ferrari! I hear from down the line. Dear God. A world cruise! Heaven help the world. The new Damien Hurst!

At which point I had to throw up. Go on a journey I might have to but not if I have some ninny’s jewel encrusted stuffed shark sat next to me on the railroad to oblivion. Time to get active methinks. Time to disrupt, agitate, innovate. Time for the Creative to break out of his box.

A Day in the Creative Life: nothing to fear but fear itself.

“Life is nothing short of perfection and nothing on earth can ruin it.” How hollow those words look this morning after last night’s departmental meeting when all the heads of department of district six of sub-sector seven of division eight of chapter nine of the multinational conglomerated conglomerate that is the corporation came together to listen to the latest diktat that was issued forth from the chaps on high.

Now loves I’m not saying I’m jealous or anything. I’m not saying I’m insecure or paranoid or anything. Or indecisive or panicking or having a rabbit in a headlights moment or anything. But. At last night’s meeting I felt an overwhelming riptide of stuff flood over me leaving a mucus slime trail of all those unwelcome unsavoury emotions washed up on my Creative conciousness.

Exaggerate? I don’t think so loves. You would feel the same if you had been presented with a fait accompli which meant that instead of being The One and Only Sole Creative in the multinational blah blah blah that is the corporation, there now stands to be and I quote “one more Creative” to join the Corporation’s ever burgeoning workforce.

One more? One more Creative? What do they think they’re doing? How can you possibly have two Creatives in the same Corporation? It’s asking for trouble: creative differences in the car park, tears before elevenses, tantrums, lunchtime tempers, talent mismanagement, storming the drinks dispensers, the works. What possible reason could there be for wanting me to share our beloved industrial economic military complex roost with a second Creative?

A Day in the Creative Life: all things for all people.

One benefit of working as the Creative in a hugely huge multinational corporate conglomerate is the variety of tasks one is presented with on an hourly basis. The pleasures of multiple portfolio development opportunities make for an endlessly fascinating life although sometimes this brings its own set of unforeseen consequences.

For instance, just this morning I was presented with a task that had seen off several management teams combined intellectual capabilities. The task was to turn our vast and disparate work force into a perfectly formed highly motivated staff team in order to impact on productivity and economic performance.

The current management cohort had exercised its collective brain power for many years over this vexatious task and had all but given up until some bright spark suggested bringing their irreconcilable differences to the attention of the resident Creative aka yours truly aka myself.

I set about the task with my usual vim and vigour but had hardly opened the manual (Managing Effective Team Building in order to impact on Productivity and Economic Performance Vol. 9) before the next task had landed in my email: provide a challenging range of services for users of the company’s crèche in order to increase their social cohesion and improve their chances of upward social mobility in later life.

No sooner had I opened the manual (Increasing Social Cohesion and Improving Upward Social Mobility vol. 56) than the next task was dropped on my desk: tackle the antisocial behaviour of lunchtime layabouts in the company’s car park. Needless to say, I had no time at all to consult the manual (Tackling Antisocial Behaviour of Lunchtime Layabouts in the Company Carpark Vol. 213) than yes love you guessed it three other tasks pinged through the ether and presented themselves for immediate creative solutions from myself aka yours truly aka The Creative.

I am of course honoured to think that someone upstairs thinks that the company’s woes can be addressed through my services and simultaneously grateful for the opportunities to extend my career in such a diverse manner. What did we do in the olden days? I mused as I set about solving the sickness record of persistently sick employees. Not solve such intractable problems? Employ the services of what or who? Use magic?

Whatever we did, that was then and this love is now and I don’t have time to reflect on the whys and wherefores of how the Company did or didn’t address its creaking infrastructure as I’m far too busy sticking Elastoplasts on short term issues, reading the manuals about the medium term ones and writing the manuals to address the longer term intractable ones.

All I know is that I’m busy busy busy, earning a good whack, have all the benefits of freelance employment status and none of the disadvantages of being micromanaged by an outdated management team who don’t know where to begin when it comes to building the perfectly formed highly motivated staff team in order to impact on productivity and economic performance. Life is nothing short of perfection and nothing on earth can ruin it.

A Day in the Creative Life: from rags to riches.

In the olden days love before the notion that we Creatives ever existed existed, people never quite knew how things were turned out. Especially if they, like me, worked in mega conglomerates whose sole raison d’être was to make shed loads of dosh for no reason at all other than to make sheds load of dosh.

How did things get invented? Mused the people. How did we innovate the plain old small nutty chocolate biscuit into a tasty after dinner treat which was dressed to impress the higher echelons of aristocratic society? The answer love is simple: it was the work of the humble Creative who was invariably chained up in a gargantuan dungeon which belonged to the firm and into which would be thrown small morsels of nourishment three times a day to stave off starvation of the increasingly deranged Creative.

In the olden days though love, they weren’t called Creatives and they had none of the professional benefits which we enjoy today. No, they were referred to as ‘those chaps in admin’ or ‘the girls in the typing pool’ or even worse, ‘that lot’: frequently accompanied by a vague wave of the hand in the direction of the corporation toilets. Because love in the olden days we Creatives were perceived as being not much higher up the evolutionary ladder than the humble sewer rat.

Happily enough though love times have moved on and we no longer have to suffer the slings and arrows from outrageous lower division marketing executives or fend off the contempt of our contemporaries. Because these days love we are out of the basement and up into the loft of some high value down town mid range kitchen unit condominium, the envy of our predecessors and source of amusement to those in the know.

These days love history has come to an end and we live in a permanent year zero with no one from accounts calling us to account for our follies and foibles: these days love the Creative is the source of all profit for that lot on the top floor of the multi-billion dollar corporation. No one knows how we do it; they know even less about how things turn out; but one thing they do know is that with one shake of our scaly tails, we can transform their business from a lowly potting shed into an agricultural miracle. They don’t know how, why, when, where or who: but they know the what of the bottom line and that is all that matters these days too for the life of the Creative.

We have our habits to maintain and a life style to stick to so if that means applying a little of our creative magic to the balance sheet of the corporation, then who are we to protest? Our history is never far away and no-one got rich quick by being locked up in a dungeon.