Word Nerd

A wish for 2016 – free the noun ‘creatives’ from its misuse of being synonymous with ‘artists.’ Emails referencing creatives vs non-creatives, or even addressed to “To my friends & acquaintances who are non-creatives” – what huh? and I’ve received these from multiple people –  have come across my desk fairly regularly in the last year.

To quote Indigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When referring to a person or people, the noun creative or creatives, according to Google and the Oxford Dictionaries, means “someone [or plural] who is creative, typically in a professional setting.” Creative as an adjective is having or showing the ability to make or think of new things, new ideas, and/or new stories, and also marked by the power to create, according to Websters. Interestingly, there is also a slightly negative connotation to the word as an adjective, as in “managed so as to get around legal or conventional limits” and a definition that refers specifically to creative accounting [“deceptively arranged so as to conceal or defraud.”]

In part, the noun form of the word comes from the business world, where material, printed or digital or other media form, used to sell anything, such as a product, a subscription or a service, are known as ‘the creative.’

The book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, was published in 2000, bringing the noun form of the word ‘creative’ to the mass market. Written by two sociologists, the book proposed that there are at least 50 mm people in the Western World working to think beyond dichotomies like progressive/conservatives or modernist/traditionalist. According to Wikipedia, this group is highly educated and contains “writers, artists, musicians, psychotherapists, alternative health care providers and other professionals.”

Cultural Creatives “are concerned with ecological sustainability and in the case of a core group have a commitment to personal and spiritual development. These are individuals who can meld the best of traditionalism and modernism to create a new synthesis, having a cognitive style based on synthesizing varied information from many sources into a big picture.” (The Cultural Creatives, Wikipedia)

By its very definition, the word is populist.  Indubitably, Bill Gates, Bono and some of the Davos set are creatives, and yet so is the checkout clerk at your local grocery market who takes the time to most efficiently pack each bag.  A single bag in a singe store may seem immaterial, but say that store sees over 10,000 sales a day. He becomes a multiplier in the reduction of plastic bags in circulation; reducing the number produced by reducing demand, reducing the negative impact of these on the environment and reducing the costs burdening his employer. Double, or quadruple, bottom line in the most basic way.

Speaking of Davos – in 2008, Gates further spurred the increase use of creative in his ‘Creative Capitalism’ speech there. He urged, among other things, for new ways to look at solutions to the issues holding back global development by better aligning self interest with the good of society, which you can find here.

The irony here is that Creatives is now part of a dichotomy by its misuse as a synonym for ‘artists’ and the polarizing of the noun against its negative compound derivative, ‘non-creatives.’


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