A few days ago, I penned the introduction to our MAEKAN Briefing that discussed some current feelings around the role of a “creative” as we sit atop the crossroads of a pandemic that continues to push many countries and people to the brink with the very real consideration of how we manage our consumption.

 

In the short piece, I highlighted how creatives are essentially glorified marketers and that whatever we create will inevitably be leveraged to sell something. Take great portraits? Shoot the talent for our campaign this season! Have an uncanny talent to encapsulate feelings and moods in an illustration? Illustrate some artwork for this product we’re releasing!

 

The cycle that we currently operate within is one of creative freedom and creative servitude. Our freedom, in terms of our ability to create what we please, provides a few different positive externalities. It’s liberating because we don’t have to adhere to anybody’s requests. It can be intellectually stimulating by testing us without the pressures of a client looking over our shoulder. And lastly, it provides us with something to put out into the world that we hopefully believe has an audience and impact.

 

But as I alluded to, your work, if of sufficient quality, will soon command a price. Those who create and do so consistently see their price compound. But at its core, that feeling of putting out uninhibited work still looms in the back of one’s mind. Yes the momentary rush of “getting paid for what you love” temporarily takes over, but if you’re fortunate enough to pay some or all of your bills, the honeymoon period can and will eventually end. I don’t think that feeling of creating something for yourself ever gets old.

 

However, just like a robust relationship, it requires honesty. Being honest to your relationship, in this case, is understanding that at its very core, anybody who wishes to make a career out of “creative work” is really funneling money from one place to put it in another. The money paid to help achieve somebody else’s vision or goal is the equivalent of buying us freedom. It’s these freedom coupons that allow us to allocate our resources a certain way and it’s the freedom to say no and spend time creating for ourselves or helping others.

 

If we had this conversation a few years ago, there was a relatively clean arrangement of exchanging creativity for marketing. In recent times, though, some of us are questioning what comes next as we see the intersection of those unable to get by day-to-day, a climate crisis, and a plethora of geopolitical battles with no end in sight. WTF are we really doing?

 

As it stands, there is no solution to a world where those who create can do so without “selling something.” But understanding the relationship and the value of freedom coupons a.k.a. cash is part of the process of seeing how you personally fit and want to make the best of a system that will not change without clear and deliberate action.