Sunday, 26 July 2009

On Creativity

This week, I’ve been naval-gazing in the hope of gaining some neurological insights (admittedly, there's a chance I've been looking in the wrong place). In a scribbly-brained moment, I had the overwhelming desire to establish once and for all whether I am capable of thinking in a left-brained manner like this:

Or whether my life's work is likely to be the result of right-brained mayhem like this:

So I’ve done lots of online cosmo-style quizzes, some of which judge me moderately left-brained, and others moderately right-brained, from which I joyfully conclude that (contrary to popular opinion) I do have a whole brain after all.

Having worked in publishing for so long, this is a perfectly shocking revelation. The entire industry is predicated on the assumption that people are either organised or creative (the former tending to hit deadlines, the latter tending to have brilliant ideas). So while half the industry is churning out thirty-odd books by Jordan, the other half has a licence to work completely chaotically whilst harbouring Romantic notions of their own genius and creativity. And when the shit hits the fan, a new and over-paid position usually arises for ‘a creative’, as if to say, ‘we don’t know what we need him to do, but he’s sure to figure something out.’ (Unfailingly, he doesn’t.)

Now as every newspaper editor knows, working in non-fiction tends to be a more creative enterprise than working in fiction. But of course brand credibility requires that precisely the opposite impression is conveyed - reliable, factual, blah blah blah. So when HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster recently became the first publishers in the race to release their Michael Jackson books, you’d have thought their publicity would have focused on the new revelations and extraordinary insights their books brought to bear on the life of the pop icon. You might even have reasonably expected a little white lie about how the book had been painstakingly researched for the last three years and was just on the verge of completion when the news of the singer’s untimely death was announced. Not so. One HC spokesperson was heard on The Today Programme boasting of how they had got a book to market ahead of their competitors in a mere two weeks: in summary, thanks to an imaginative writer with outstandingly rapid typing skills, fuelled by a giant crate of coca cola.

To any sane and rational potential purchaser, this insight into the rushed compilation of celebrity hardbacks would be deeply off-putting. But it does at least prove beyond all reasonable doubt that to get there first you need to be both organised and creative. Though whether you need a whole brain is, of course, another question...

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