How To Be Creative (Without Also Sucking as a Person)

It’s a caffeine-fueled week, folks.

I’ve started writing for myself again—just a little bit, just mission critical stuff. I bought a new journal two weeks ago, and it’s nice to have my own private space to be…well, a writer.

(Maybe it’s better to say “a person who writes.” Sounds less pretentious. )

This isn’t my first journal. In a few months, it will likely join the dozen other half-finished notebooks boxed away in my basement. Yet another awkward testament to my young narcissism. Or to my passion for artistic expression. Or both.

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Narcissism, self-expression. They kind of go together, don’t they?

Here’s a reality I’ve uncovered recently: Being a creative person can be pretty freakin’ self-involved, especially in the share-centric twenty first century. We’re claiming our own little corners of the internet, competing for attention, measuring our value in likes and upvotes. I have a website which is a pun of my own name, guys. That can’t be good for ego control.

And so it goes: I made this. I wrote this. I produced this. Please admire me?

Journalling for myself remedies some of that, sometimes. At the very least, it lets me differentiate between what is (and isn’t) relevant to the public. It lets me organize my thoughts before I throw them at you guys (that’s a good thing, trust me). I also have a private micro-journalling app called Day One, which often takes the place of InstaTwitterBook posting. It means I can caption, organize, and record little memories, without forcing them all upon every person I have ever met. It means I don’t spam you with my daily monotony.

Well, I do sometimes. But the app at least helps with the self-control.

I think having different outlets for expression is really healthy, especially if you seem to have a lot to express. Being creative means that I write articles like this, but it also means I take pictures of everything. I write stupid poems. I record brainwaves, I pen songs, I text weird puns at my best friend.

You don’t need to see all that.

I’ll show you some of it–when it could be inspiring, or interesting, or funny. When it becomes something more powerful, when it could reflect on your life in some way. When I can release it with an assured sense of “Yeah, this doesn’t belong to me anymore. This idea, this article, this story…I can let people have their way with it.

We shouldn’t hold back our gifts. I would be a hypocrite to speak against good ol’ self-promotion. Still, I think it’s fair to commit to creating things worth promoting.  The things we create matter not because they’re a solid contribution to our own “collected works,” but because they’re an important (or entertaining, or enlightening) contribution to the collected works of humanity, period.

And that can end pretty freaking well:

art is

I think the secret to creating without also sucking as a person (or just being annoying to be around) is to be thoughtful with when and how you share. Not everything matters to everyone…but, at the same time, one unexpected piece of art can completely change the game. Be bold. Be real. Remember that a well-crafted personal letter to just one person can be 10 times more powerful than a semi-popular blog post. Remember that appreciating the creations of others, large and small, can have a profoundly positive effect on community.

And remember that as soon as you share something you have created, it becomes a gift. It can be about you, you can put yourself and your effort inside of it, but ultimately it no longer belongs to you.

When I press publish on this blog post, it will go from being mine to being ours. You get to have your way with it.

And I’ll just be here–sipping cheap coffee, privately sketching out my self-obsession, and letting you know if I come up with something worth sharing.

Love.

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30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student

When my co-op advisor asked how my current job relates to my History degree, I didn’t know what to tell her. Not because the job doesn’t relate to my studies–it does. Almost everything does, if you ask me. On the transferable skill side, there is just so, so much.

As I sit at the tail end of my History and Communications double major, resume full of business-friendly internships and experiences, I can’t help but notice how underrated the History half of my education seems to be. It has helped me thrive in so many work worlds–from the public service, to high tech marketing, to education and tourism. It’s time we stopped overlooking the History degree.

Here are 30 reasons why.

  1. History students are experts at tracking trends. They know how people, strategies, and time-stamped statistics work (or don’t work).
  2.  …and, yes, they know how to communicate that information back.
  3. When presented with a whole bunch of information, History students are trained to be able to quickly judge what is relevant, and why it is relevant.
  4. History students need to pick up on the jargon, locations, and terms associated with different historical periods and disciplines.  If there’s unique lingo, acronyms, or language that your team/organization uses, they will be quick to understand and adopt it.
  5. These kids know how to write.
  6. Oh, and they know how to summarize. Throw them a hodgepodge of random information, and they’ll turn it into a concise, focused, and coherent package (hey, maybe they’ll even make you a list! Eh? Eh?)
  7. They can recognize long term effects.
  8. …which means they can help develop long term solutions.
  9. And they’re aware that the world changes constantly, so those solutions (and their attitudes) will likely stay flexible.
  10. They recognize the need for a plan B (and C…and D…)
  11. History scholars tend to be naturally interested people. Interested people are the best employees.
  12. They know how to back up their points, and are champions of logical argumentation.
  13. They understand how individuals affect situations and organizations.
  14. They understand how the environment affects situations and organizations.
  15. They understand how internal culture affects situations and organizations.
  16. …basically, History students understand stuff. Or they can figure it out pretty quickly, after years of studying how things play out and why.
  17. Chances are they have an awareness of international relations and the history/culture of different countries. With our increasingly global economy, this shouldn’t be underestimated.
  18. They do their research.
  19. And they do that research well.  They know how to confirm data, to critically evaluate sources, and to filter out irrelevant information.
  20. History majors know how to make connections. They can learn how a system works (or how it doesn’t work) incredibly quickly.
  21. They are open to abstract thinking and ideas.
  22. These are critically thinking storytellers. They can make almost anything look and feel interesting.
  23. History degrees involve seminars and discussions, so a History student will have refined oral communication skills.
  24. History scholars genuinely enjoy learning, and they’re quick to do it. Throw them information, and they’ll catch it.
  25. They know how to use media and technology as a research and a communication tool.
  26. They work freakin’ hard. (I know multiple very smart people who tried taking a first year history class as a “bird course” and either dropped it or called me crying “What why is this is so hard?!”)
  27. They know what kind of innovative, thoughtful ideas have influenced the world in the past. This means that their ideas are usually pretty innovative and thoughtful.
  28. Most History students understand economics—they get how money works, moves, and influences things.
  29. They are trained on how to observe human behavior. Like, say, a client or customer’s behavior.
  30. They can organize ideas into tables and timelines like you would not believe.

Basically, studying History helps you develop key skills like critical thinking, communication, research, and writing.  History students can pick up on patterns and systems quickly, think in big picture/abstract ways…and still rock that always important attention to detail.

I’m biased, I’m biased, I’m biased (so biased, I said it three times). But, hey, at least I recognize that bias, and mention it when presenting a listed-out argument, right?

(History degree, yo.)

Had to. Okay. I'm done geeking out now.
Had to. Okay. I’m done now.

Kids. These. Days.

First, a short list of things that I have no control over:

My gender
My sexuality
My race
My parents
My blood type
Where I was born
When I was born

Now, a list of things that do not directly affect my employability or job performance:

My gender
My sexuality
My race
My parents
My blood type
Where I was born
When I was born

I’m new to adultland, so correct me if I’m wrong: I was taught that character, skills, competence and experience are what make or break a new employee.  I was taught that the factors I listed above are not all that important. At least, they shouldn’t be.

Thankfully, I live in a time and place that reflects these values. Being a woman hasn’t stopped me from getting a job.  I have worked alongside folks of many races and backgrounds, all of whom seemed to be treated fairly. Diversity in the workplace, in my experience, has been regarded as a good thing.

I’m lucky.

And I’m lucky that the media, bless it, is hesitant to blame any behaviour, good or bad, on such superficial factors.

…well, except one.

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For some reason, it’s totally fair game to pick on an entire generation.

In fact, it’s fashionable.

On a weekly basis, I am pummeled with articles about how  the attitude of Generation-Y, meaning anyone born between 1980 and 2000, is all but a signal of the end times.  We’re the worst employees to have. We’re the take-take-takers.  The entitled ones.

When I read these articles, I am tempted to write an article to shout back. To cite statistics and stories on the other side: NO YOU’RE WRONG! LOOK AT US!  LOOK AT ME! WE’RE WORKING HARD! IT’S YOUR GENERATION THAT RUINED THINGS! LEAVE US ALONE!  I could make a case for it. I could.  Most millenials I know are working multiple jobs, some of which are unpaid, often heavily supporting the very function of the government or helping advance the world of technology, while dealing with a hugely changing economy and paying off record-high tuition.

Whew.

Yeah.  I won’t write that article.

I won’t write it because all that seems self-evident to me.  And I won’t write it because the positives that I see are also an oversimplification. I don’t want to contribute to a totally contrived “debate” about what it means to be born between 1980 and 2000.  Because honestly? We’re insulting our own intelligence with this mainstream conversation about KidsThese. Days.

When we talk about the Generation-Y, we’re talking about a massive group of people with different capacities, backgrounds and relationships with reality. Admittedly, as with any cultural group, the Generation has some shared experiences and perspectives.  But the conversation we’re having is about jobs, about standard of living, about a person’s individual worth. Before we all flutter to the comment sections with our personal stories and claims of “I work harder than you work,” let’s get real:  You should really hire some of us.  You should really not hire others. Everyone born in this twenty-year period is not meant for the same job, nor are they bound to infect workplaces with the same “sins.” 

While headlines damning the upcoming generation may be a good way to sell papers (all together now: Kids. These. Days.), it’s lazy, self-indulgent, and stereotype-pushing “journalism.”  And it breeds attitudes which hurt. A lot.

Obvious stereotyping.  Gets a positive score of 5 on the Globe and Mail online.
Obvious stereotyping. Totally out of line. Gets a positive score of 5 on the Globe and Mail online.
tim hortons
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free education
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To be fair, the 9-year Arts party has left many young people able to spell words like "Like".

(Thankfully, the alleged 9-year Arts party has also created a generation of people able to spell the word “like.”)

Now, if these comments were tough love from someone with a right to give me tough love, I could take it.  If my client or employer thought I was acting lazy, entitled, or selfish, I would really want to know.  I appreciate, deeply, any constructive conversations that I’ve had in my short career. I love to work; I love to improve at work; I love to learn from people who have been there awhile.  Specific jobs require specific skills and behaviour, and figuring those things out is important.

But those conversations would be about me. They wouldn’t be about a Generation spanning twenty years.  In practice, it would be ridiculous for anyone to make it about that.

“Well, I’m a millennial and have an Arts degree…what did you expect?”

(said no one ever).

Once again, a list of things that no one can cite as an excuse for good or bad workplace performance:

My gender
My sexuality
My race
My parents
My blood type
Where I was born
When I was born

The reality is that it’s not only insulting for someone to use those things to categorize one’s competence: It’s dangerous.

Like any stereotyping, this “debate” distracts from real problems, solutions, and cooperation. It breeds fear and hate. It welcomes barriers based in bullshit.

If you don’t believe me, you should check out the backlash.  The “Generation” conversation has created unnecessary hostility between different age groups. As someone with a lotta love for older Generations, this backlash really, really upsets me.

NO YOU’RE WRONG! LOOK AT US!  LOOK AT ME! WE’RE WORKING HARD! IT’S YOUR GENERATION THAT RUINED THINGS! LEAVE US ALONE.

Remember this? That all may be true, but it’s about to get ugly.  A division has been created, and now there is no stopping it.

boomers

boomers2

boomers3

Look at what we started.

Not productive. Not helping. But when slurs are being thrown at the younger generation from high-ranking news media, is this defensiveness all that surprising?

Charlotte Whitton’s popular quote reads “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

That was said a long time ago, but if you replace “women” with “Millenials,” it is somewhat of a reality for me today.  In some ways, I’m okay with that: To be perceived as “worthy” members of the workforce, we have to pay our dues, show up on time, and earn it.

But no one should have to “earn it” while faced with discrimination, lowered bars, and prejudice from so-called Generational differences.

If we need to work harder, and be smarter, then okay. Okay.

Let’s do it together.

Let’s start by being smarter about how we categorize people.