Art · Fashion · Film · Prose · Thoughts

When Creativity is Elitist

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks and in that time I read through different definitions of being a creative. One website said: “A creative is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box. Some think of creatives as iconoclasts; others see them as rebels…A creative is a thought leader.” An article on the Huffingtonpost says “creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people.”

If you’re like me, this all sounds as pretentious as vowing not to drive an automatic because manual transmissions make the driving experience more “authentic”(My eyes, they roll).

The first time I heard the word “creative” used as a noun, I pictured someone wearing shoes with no socks even though their shoes clearly require socks. I pictured someone wearing very tight checkered pants with a short-sleeved jacket because who has time for sleeves when you’re busy creating? They all owned Macbooks and called themselves foodies because their mealtimes were recorded with perfectly angled Instagram selfies paired with complicated captions about the meaning of life. In my mind they were all addicted to coffee. But not Ricoffy or Nescafe. They preferred MochaChocaLatteYaya coffee from the rolling hills of Nicaragua, roasted in pan-brick ovens smuggled from the villages of Portugal. Basically, creatives were hippies who went to private school.

But that was then.

For a long time I didn’t see myself as a creative person. I have always enjoyed writing, and it has become my favourite creative outlet, but because I didn’t feel like I fit the aesthetic that is often associated with creatives I thought I wasn’t good enough to call myself one. I figured I had to be remarkable, had to look and dress a certain way, and that I always had to have a creative idea on my fingertips. Before you write this off as an inferiority complex, there were plenty of interactions I had with creatives that solidified my perception of them belonging to an elitist club. They were part of the “cultural” elite: employed in the world of culture. I often got a “you can’t sit with us” vibe which possibly came from their positioning as creators of culture. This seemed backwards to me because my idea of creative spaces was places open to everyone. Creative spaces were meant to be a safe place for ideas no matter what packaging they presented themselves in. Instead I found some creative spaces to be exclusionary, foreign, and inaccessible.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think its deliberate. Its common sense that people generally create ties with people who are similar to them. And its also true that people get ostracized for the way they express themselves and therefore they will gravitate towards those who accept their creativity.

However I still feel that we need to broaden our idea of what a creative is. My initial perception of creatives was admittedly clouded by my own insecurities and too much television. Scott Timberg, an arts writer from Salon expands on this saying “our image of the creative class comes from a strange mix of sources, among them faux-populist politics, changing values, technological rewiring, and the media’s relationship to culture”.

Whatever colourful adjectives you may use to define being a creative, I think it simply means being a critical thinker. To me, being a creative is using a process of actively observing, evaluating, conceptualising and generating a solution to any situation based on the resources one has. You can be creative in any manner and in any type of work that you do. When you find an out of the box way to increase sales in your company, you’re thinking creatively. When you find a new way to maximise your productivity, you’re being a creative. There is no formula. There is no roadmap for you to take to reach a point where you qualify to be called a creative.Whether its used as a noun or an adjective, the criteria is simply to create. And we all create in one way or another every day.

I believe its important to understand that everyone is creative because creativity is part of what keeps humanity going. Creativity breeds collaboration. Collaboration creates innovation. And so on and so forth.  We all should participate in inventing progressive culture and traditions. We can not afford to be passive in the creation of culture that will ultimately affect us all. When we create, we are moving forward, and only when we move forward are we are truly living.

6 thoughts on “When Creativity is Elitist

  1. Interesting. . .what do you think about Zimbabwean creatives vibes regarding elitism. I think in Zimbabwe we have two vibes…there are creatives from.grassroots which are township vibes and underground musicians and sculptures….then the other ones who use Creative to charge exhorbitant entrance fees for locals so we never appreciate their art…buuuut thats just me


    1. I think elitism definitely exists within Zim creative spaces. The fact that you rarely find those township and grassroots creatives as you said in the usual “uptown” creative spaces says a lot. There is no bridge in between and I don’t know if people even want a bridge in the first place.


      1. We have lost so many spaces for the arts tho, with that book cafe at fife avenue and the place hip hop stuff happened. But the club scene other side of town is always buzzing with talent daily, arts are the only choice for many youths without access to good education

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the very few pieces that I actually read to the end. I love how brought it up and you could’ve mentioned as well how certain hubs need to be accommodating to everyone. Thank you so much for the piece


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