Thursday, February 02, 2006

Creative Class Conundrum

I have been thinking a great deal about work lately - in all circumstances - from my job to volunteering to any other situation where I'm engaged in "producing" something. I have one consistent difficulty no matter what I work on - a job, a volunteer project, whatever. People are never happy about HOW I do my job. Everyone's always satisfied with what I do and the fact that it's done and done on time, but they're never happy with how that happens.

Years ago, a supervisor said during an evaluation, "it's like you do nothing and then all at once I come in and you've pulled an all-nighter and there are more projects completed than would seem humanly possible." I couldn't then, and still can not, see what the problem with that is. You gave me X amount of work to do and a deadline by which to do it. I delivered the work, plus some, in advance of the deadline. So what is the problem? You wanted to WATCH me work? I'm not a goldfish. The fact that you couldn't SEE me working makes the work invalid?

I worked in broadcasting at various places for nearly 25 years. I was never once late for an on-air shift. I never missed a deadline. I never divulged a source. I never used the media inappropriately. And, yet, there was never much trust in me anywhere I ever worked. There was always much checking up to see how things were going, because things were not happening by the text book. After a few years of delivering decent work on time it would seem everyone could relax, but there is always a need to maintain that tension - I guess to prove the need for supervision.

I don't want to be judged on my methods. Things get done. Can you just never be happy with the end result? I'm sitting here at 12:18 a.m. doing work. I was also doing it at 6:30 this morning. What difference does it make when/where/how it happens as long as it gets done and on time. It would be better to wait until 9 a.m. tomorrow to do it?

It always feels to me like people are just looking for something to be annoyed about. And with me it's my methods.

I'm so looking forward to the day when I am working for myself only and I don't have to please anyone with my methods. No wonder I like writing - editors don't give a flip about when or where you write or by what method you choose to do it. They just care if it shows up on their desks when it's supposed to. It's really a good system.

People continually talk about the Creative Class people and how they want them. Hello? I am it. (The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida) And you want to take the very thing that makes me who I am - the positives creative class people bring to a community - and kill them off. You want to shove me into your preconceived box of notions about what is "right" or "professional" or whatever else. Those things are all changing all the time. You're still stuck in 1953. Read the book. We HATE that. And then you wonder why we don't stay in the community/job/volunteer position/whatever. You won't let us be who we are. You won't look beyond the details and see the big picture. Creative Class people are going to be who they are - they'll just move on. Then you'll sit around and bemoan how your community doesn't have them.

You say you want us. But, you aren't willing to accept us as we are. It's a package. People who are geared toward creative thinking and fresh ideas are not people who fit archaic notions of what a perfect employee/volunteer is. Loosen up. Take us as we are. We bring you some really cool things. Accept them and accept us.

All of my life people have talked about what I'm "capable of," implying it's much more than I'm devoting to whatever project is on tap. I cannot give my all to any one thing. I've got thousands of things going on in my brain at any moment. Literally - thousands. Hundreds when I'm at rest. When it gets down to a couple of hundred I can go to sleep.

I always have dozens of projects that are in various stages of production at any one time. I can't drop everything else and focus only on one of them. And the fact that I have a lot going on is the very reason I bring creativity to whatever project I'm working on with you. Can't you just be happy and appreciative and not belabor the fact that I don't do it the way you would do it? If you wanted it done that way, why didn't you just do it? Why did you ask for my ideas? Because you were stuck. You wanted to use my brain. You wanted "fresh" ideas. Then you want to shove them into a box so they get stale as quickly as possible.

I've decided to call it the Creative Class Conundrum. You say you want us, but you're not willing to make any arrangements to get what you say you want from us. You want to use our brains and our creativity, but you don't want to give us anything in return. When you put us in a box, you get pablum out of us. You can make us sit in the chair from 9-5, but you're not going to get the best out of us that way. Creativity doesn't happen in a box.

If you really want what you say you want - you can't box us in - in any way. So, you've got to decide, do you want creativity and enthusiasm, or do you just want us to show up and do what was done yesterday and last year and the year before? You've got a whole crew of people to do that already. If that's what you want, why do you say you want the Creative Class people?

Why you really want us is because areas that have a large number of Creative Class people are booming - financially and every other way. You want that, too. If you want it, you've got to let go of all the ideas you have about how things are "supposed" to work. Face it, if those things were working all that great, you wouldn't be trying to figure out how to get the Creative Class. You'd be tickled with exactly what you have.

It's so easy, really... all you have to do is leave us alone and let us go at it... we'll do amazing things... if you'll just stop preventing it.

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