To have any chance of producing my best work – Ok, my aim was to face facts so make that any work – I crave my own little piece of that big creative environment out there: some shiny corner for a shiny suit that I can contaminate with a tiny trace of my DNA. Yes, I know it’s anally-retentive; borderline possessive/obsessive/old-fashioned and suggests I don’t share ideas easily. “Were you an only child?” No: but remember there’s still no des(i)gner in (Creative) team.
I also like a bit of respect now and then – something that will be returned in spades and er, a decent wage helps; mind you like communication that goes without saying. “Oh… that’s why you didn’t say it.” Some minor form of encouragement once in a while – that’s also helpful to get my mojo workin’ – even if it’s only the offer of a cup of coffee that resembles muddy waters. Well, maybe not that: how about a nice chat over a viral? A computer game when the words won’t come out to play? I’ve been known to join the Chechen rebels – aka smokers – on the pavement. They at least seem to have an agreed environment/mission giving reason to congregate/communicate.
It is possible in a career to claim to have seen it all and yet to have seen none of it – like South West Trains’ ticket inspectors and the gypsy women who pester me with lucky heather in shopping malls. The ambience in creative environments varies from all-day music to library quiet; wine on Fridays to elaborate bonding sessions laid on by outside consultants; from collective deadline fever to persistent strung-out paranoia.
From sandpits a la Brian Wilson’s Smile era to the hackneyed table football – pointed out as a dealmaker only recently at an internet publisher – creativity often seems based on returning us to a previous age; perhaps to stimulate the free flowing ideas of the inner child. Thing is if it ain’t your ball, or you don’t want to play, it is all so much arrested development.
There’s always alcohol to loosen the ties that b(l)ind us. One friend who wishes to remain anonymous – she’s, now how can I put it, used to being anonymous after hours – specifically at closing time; ahem – describes sessions at an agency in-house bar as incest. Her argument that she liked to get creative inspiration that was fresh, random and in her face from the everyday she overheard and saw in pubs, trains and streets conflicted with the circle-jerk of the firm and the eternal jockeying for position.
And then there’s the feeling that creativity appears forced in so many environments. Inference is one thing; psychological compulsion quite another for us free creative spirits. No, not the in-house bar again. These calls to arms include mission statements on web sites, designed to show how different and quirky we are, to bold Soviet-style exhortations to make a difference. I’ve seen aphorisms such as “Don’t be a doormat” written on the doormat and in the same firm a glass partition on the board/conference room boasting the legend: “Gas and Air.”
Guilty as charged, Mlud… We’ve all done it – pasted up sheets of brainstormed material, in-jokes and the wisdom of hard-gained experience (piss-taking) on the walls – well it’s what we creatives do. They’re fun but they’re funny for, oh about as long as it takes to read this. I question whether you would really want to be confronted by this hilarious observation © graffiti in the toilet.com daily without borrowing any sharp-angled Ikea implement you could get your hands on to smash it into pieces. Did it need saying anymore than – “Would you like a cup of coffee while you wait?”
“…but remember there’s still no des(i)gner in (Creative) team.”
I worked in a factory once and on the wall – red on white in large letters was – “Think Quality.” Nyet… it wasn’t a tractor factory. Many a mindless hour was spent questioning this wisdom. To start with the job largely meant you didn’t think. Those who had the self-respect and professionalism to do a quality job did so in any case: those who didn’t never thought about quality nor probably read anything anyway. Stay long enough and reverse psychology nagged at your brain like a little devil on your shoulder: the result – you became so annoyed at the insult to intelligence and the managerial inference – your work deteriorated in an exercise of bloody-mindedness and, in some extreme cases, deliberate sabotage.
A creative personality indicates a degree of individuality/responsibility: that is surely another given? So whether it’s being given a regular supply of Chocolate hobnobs or a stab at the latest technology; a social life tied to the workplace or oodles of jollies; SEO rich or cash poor – but interesting; PLC or TLC; prestige from working in an awards-oriented environment or very tight briefs: a masochistic love of the special late-night atmosphere spent battling looming deadlines or simply that inward buzz that comes from filling a blank screen anywhere – “Hell, I thought that was good when I left yesterday” – creative motivation and inspiration comes from a multitude of sins.
One person’s ambience is another’s ambulance according to a wise man I once heard. And I’m damn sure it wasn’t Kevin McCloud.
“Do you dunk or lick?”