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What is Creativity?

When I was first starting out as an Art Director and going on interviews, I was greeted by an intimidating president of a small company who asked me bluntly, “Define Creativity”? I think most people who know me couldn’t imagine me being at a loss for words, but at this moment I went completely silent. I had never had to put into words what creativity was. For me, it had always been a feeling. And really, was there one definition?

In fact, there is a definition.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

cre·a·tiv·i·ty noun\ˌkrē-(ˌ)ā-ˈti-və-tē, ˌkrē-ə-\ : the ability to make new things or think of new ideas

I agree with this definition. In general. But 6 years later I revisited this question when working with a mentor of mine. He asked me what was important to me when it comes to my career. In response, I used the word which had once eluded me, and stated confidently “creativity”. In true déjà vu fashion, he asked, what does creativity mean to you?

Long story short, I had to come up with a definition of it that meant something to me. The answer we came up with included a word that was missing from the Merriam-Webster definition. For me, the definition of creativity had to include the word “inspiration”. To be inspired to make new things or think of new ideas. When we drilled it down even further, for me, it is inspiration that comes through discovery.

And this is why advertising works for me. There’s something to discover with every new client, new project, and new problem, no matter the client category. I once heard of a creative exercise where students were asked to photograph a tree from 10 different perspectives. What was once a boring tree that everyone had seen before, took on a new life through discovering it from a different angle.

Maybe one day the “Creative” department will be referred to as something more specific, but till then I’m going to remind myself to continue discovering and finding inspiration in unlikely places.

Oh, and I didn’t get the job from the aforementioned interview. But I think that was a good thing.