There are no Creatives

Creativity has been hijacked

Brandon Smith
7 min readMar 10, 2017

“Babbido bibbido.”


“Noogie googie — ”


Oh, hey! Didn’t see you there. Sorry, I was … word barfing all over the place. Making stuff up. You know, exercising my right as a Creative with a capital C. Because I’m super fancy like that, and you can’t touch this.

It’s probably your turn to barf now, right?

Don’t blame you one bit.

Using the word “Creative” to refer to artists has bothered me ever since it became a thing, which seems relatively recent if I’m remembering correctly. But I could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Anywho, the technicality of when its usage began is largely irrelevant to this humble opinion piece. So lets move on to the meat of it, shall we?

(FYI, I will be using ironical apostrophes throughout this piece, despite my loathing for punctuation misusage. ‘Tis what ‘tis.)

The problem with calling people Creatives

It used to be that painters, sculptors, designers, writers, and so on could simply be referred to broadly as “artists,” because, generally speaking, they are folks who are involved in the arts.

But in modern times, whether because it sounds trendy or artsy hipsters think they’re special, artists started being referred to as “Creatives.”


Except for the fact that … huh? Why?

It’s easy to dismiss improper word usage to the wind and pretend it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But it does. It really, really does.

I’m just quoting right here, but roll with me on this:


The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

Look at all the different ways that one can be creative! Mind-numbing possibilities right there. Does it say anything about painting? No. Design? No. Acting? No. Pattern here? Mmhmm.

It’s really rather insulting that humanity has arrived at this icky mindset in which it thinks artists are the only ones who possess creativity. Artistry and creativity are two very different things. It’s not just the artist who can be creative. Everyone has the capacity for creativity. Everyone.

Can I repeat that?

Everyone has the capacity for creativity.

Saying artists are the only creative people on Earth is like calling every bird but a peacock a pigeon. (I think that metaphor makes sense. Sorry, just a “Creative” trying to be creative over here.)

Creativity beyond Creatives

When I look at the work civil engineers do to get all the math right so a bridge will stay standing once it’s built, or the way programmers transform all that gobbledygook into beautiful software experiences, or how a salesperson can turn the right phrase and push the right emotional buttons to get a reluctant customer to buy something, I can’t help but admire how creative so-called Not-Creatives can be.

Look at how ubiquitous the wheel is in our society, thousands upon thousands of years after its inception. Everything from steering wheels to gears to doorknobs to earthquake-safe buildings. The wheel, as dead simple as it is, is probably responsible for more technological innovation than any other thing in history. I mean, I can’t think of anything more influential. Can you?

And one certainly can’t forget the most illuminating example of all — the fact that it took Thomas Edison five hundred tireless attempts to bring the lightbulb into the world and change the course of modern civilization forever. That sort of problem solving is not just science; it’s creativity, in all its messy glory. It’s no small coincidence that the symbol for the idea — for the creative spark — is a lightbulb.

So if creativity clearly goes beyond the arts, then it’s not exclusive to the arts. But these days artists are the only people we seem keen on labeling “Creatives.”

The truth is that creativity is for all humanity to partake in. And yet, at the same time, it goes beyond us. Creativity is a gift granted to the entirety of life itself.

If you’ve ever spent time observing animals, or studying about them in school, or watching the BBC series Planet Earth or Life, then you know how creative and resourceful animals can be. Plants, even, have invented creative solutions to the problems they face.

So why are so many of us humans so damn afraid of being creative?

They stole it from us!

STEM programs have been in schools for years. In case you haven’t heard of it, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Umm, isn’t something missing there?

Yes, yes there is.

It wasn’t until more recently that educators decided it might be a good idea to add an A to it: Art. STEAM. Which kind of just brings us back to square one, doesn’t it? The idea that all aspects of knowledge and intellectual practice are important seems … obvious. But for a while there, apparently the arts weren’t intellectual.

Funny, because art encourages the mind to think differently than those other areas of study do. Playing a musical instrument puts the brain through incredible paces — more so than math or any of the other STEM areas. Say wut!

Creativity is the essential ingredient to fostering an innovative mind, but it gets stolen from us somewhere along the road to adulthood. And too many adults are afraid to reclaim it for themselves.

“They stole it from us!”

I get a tad sad when someone sees work I’ve done and they tell me they think it’s beautiful, just to follow up with the phrase, “I could never do anything like that. I’ll never get that good.”

Wha—what?! Don’t sell yourself short. Please please please.

Creativity doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. (And frequent late night commitments to working on your craft, if you’re really serious.)

The truth is, you don’t have to be an artist to exercise creativity. Just because you don’t have a natural penchant for writing or painting or design or whathaveyou, doesn’t mean you can’t bring creativity into the work you do.

Creativity isn’t a gift. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised.

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”

— Edward de Bono

2017 Challenge for the so-called “Not-Creative”

Exercise your right to be creative. Stop denying yourself the chance to mix things up with your work. Not only will your work become more enjoyable, it’ll also make you a more valuable asset in whatever you do.

And please don’t look at your work and say to yourself, “There’s no way I can get creative with this.” That’s a cop out and a false statement. There’s always a way to inject some creativity.

Whether you’re in a technical profession or the hospitality field or medical or retail or government or the myriad other jobs out there that don’t make you a so-called “Creative,” you still have every right to be creative.

Take a few moments each day to consider the areas of your work that could use improvement. Perhaps the day-to-day efficiency of your workflow could use some retooling. Or maybe your workplace relationships could use a tuneup.

There are hundreds of great articles on Medium and elsewhere to help get you started in the right direction. But I’m not going to give them to you in this article. Take a moment to invest in yourself. Hunt them down. Find your opportunities.

Recognizing areas of improvement is the first step to making them a reality.

You can do it. We all can. It might just seem like nature doing its thing, but it took some creativity to learn how to crawl, to learn how to make sense of the words being spoken to us, to stand for the first time, to learn how to read. We’ve been exercising our creativity all our lives. Creativity is a vital component of every human life, and saying it’s reserved only for the select few is abhorrent.

As researcher Brené Brown puts it,

“There’s no such thing as creative people and noncreative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”

— from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection

Creativity was stolen from most of us when we entered adulthood and the “real world” started demanding we settle on the boring their-way-or-the-highway slog rather than pursue our best life-affirming work.

But we can’t just accept this, can we? There’s a reality check to account for. The fact remains that those who exercise their right to use their creativity, who push the boundaries of their work, who go above and beyond what they’re asked to do tend to make the biggest leaps—and reap the biggest rewards. Those who exercise their creativity are the ones who move the world forward.

We shouldn’t let the dogmas of adulthood cheat us out of the confidence to take control of our work and our passions, to improve ourselves and everything we produce. Creativity is not just for “Creatives.”

Creativity is a vital component of every human life.

Let’s stop calling artists Creatives

It would take some serious manpower to undo the unfortunate plague of calling only certain individuals “Creatives.” But can we just agree to start calling artists artists again? Better yet, let’s refer to them for what they really are. Designers are designers. Painters are painters. Writers are writers. And so on. Let’s stop calling these people “Creatives.”

Are you with me?

Artists create art.

There are no Creatives. Because everyone is creative.

Thanks for reading!

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Brandon Smith

Designer, writer, and photographer dwelling in Los Angeles.