“So, what are you studying?” he asked half interested – as extended relatives do at forced gatherings.
“Advertising,” I replied, pleased with myself, “I’m in my first year. I want to be a copywriter one day.”
He grunts. “Pff, so… basically… you want to manipulate people?”
And my face was like:
You know when you’re persuaded (or bribed) into playing chubby bunny – stuffing copious amounts of marshmallows into your mouth, and coaxed into saying something ridiculous after every one you manage pop/squeeze/force/mush into your mouth? That’s exactly how I felt, sans marshmallows. By the time I had come up with, what I thought was, a witty and well-argued retort, he’d swirled his drink and managed to swirl away from this spiralling conversation.
I imagine he meant no harm, but his question-statement has always sat somewhere in the mouldy, stale, forgotten-foods corner of my proverbial mental cupboard. It’s not the “what the hell is making my kitchen smell awful” kind of thought, but every now and again when I feel compelled to satiate my OCD and rearrange my mental shelves, I do come across it. In the brief moments to follow I ponder whether I should just throw it out, or if I’ll be able to use it in some obscure recipe promoted by one of my save-the-forest-and-the-world friends that found this “amazing” website that tells you how to reuse very expired foods. Meh.
Almost six years later, I am living/working/doing/loving the dream I had from the start; I am a copywriter in a very successful agency. I get to wake up every morning knowing that I will contribute to work that will change and shape the way people think – the way they feel. I have the opportunity to learn (as I am still quite green) and grow and try and get it right. I get to connect with people I have never met simply by putting words down on a page. I am required to throw not only my mind, but my soul, into everything I put my hands and brain to. This, is the dream.
Advertising is an industry teeming with, and proliferated by, creativity. It is not simply a requirement, it is an expectation, a standard, a necessity, a cannot-under-any-circumstances-be-without. It is creativity for both the sake of function and flair. It is creativity in design, in planning, in execution, in research, in deliverables, in communicating, in monitoring, in reporting (not in that exact order, but all parts are necessary). Sometimes, it is even creativity in dealing with difficult people.
Tell me then, is manipulation the same thing as creativity? Don’t get smart-arse about it and give me dictionary definitions verbatim, because we all know what manipulation is. The got-you-wrapped-around-my finger type – the you’ve-had-wool-pulled-over-and-stuffed-into-your-eyes type. On the other end of the scale sits creativity – the ability to imagine and create and design and do. It is the very replication of doing what was done to us – make something from nothing, or dust.
You cannot, under any circumstances, coerce me into believing that creativity’s objective is to manipulate. Yes, there are those who use it to manipulate, but then is it really creativity? Surely creativity is void of malicious intent – after all, God created man and that was by no means out of malice. He saw that it was good.
Because we are formed in His image, we too have the ability to create what is good. What an astounding revelation to realise that I am in an industry that, by operation and outcome, consistently taps into the very nature of God, as Creator. That by creating, the same life that was breathed into me, can be breathed into anything I work on. It is humbling, subsequently, to realise that the best way for me to create is for me to constantly draw from the boundless source of creativity. I am only a middle-man channelling what is poured into me.
Now I sit, very aware that I’ve moved a lot of items around in the cupboard, I’ve added some new items and it’s probably time to throw some of the old ones out. Dear stale, forgotten-foods manipulation question, it is time for you to go. Manipulation is not, and has never been, the reason for my passion in this line of work. Think of what I do as an extension of what was done from the beginning of time. Create.