Daily Prompt Hear No Evil Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

I was still a new teacher there, my first school after moving to California. I’m now convinced that maybe I’m somehow not quite like the other kids, but then I thought I was. I thought I had found my niche, was in the mainstream, a talented young teacher, with good ideas and something to offer. Well…

I walked down the hall of the shabby “temporary” classroom building with its dirty brown carpet that was buckled and wrinkled from ceiling leaks and students’ wet shoes. I was excited to be working on a project — my first! — with a couple of my colleagues. About 8 feet from the door I heard:

“What’s she teaching for, anyway?”
“I have no idea.”
“She doesn’t belong here, and now Sally wants us to work with her?”
“Sally says she’s ‘cree-AY-tive’.”
“Shh. She’ll be here any minute.”
“Oh God. Why us?”

The word — which all my life I’d considered a compliment — had been uttered with a sneer…

I walked in. Neither had any idea I’d heard them. I don’t think I ended up working on the project with them. In later years, each decided to become friends with me. It was politic for me to be friendly, but I could never summon up more than that. I wonder if they ever wondered why.

That was my first experience with the idea that many people have that creative people are flakes; disorganized, unfocused, unreliable, amoral, mentally unstable, illogical and rebellious. I’m none of those things. This little meme feeds right into that stereotype:


For all our yammering about “embracing diversity” it seems we only do that on the most superficial levels, the animal level — skin color, certain obvious mental challenges and sexual orientation. My experience is that people have a very hard time accepting anything truly “diverse.”


Original posting of this essay was on March 3, 2014   The prompt was slightly different, but even THIS prompt is a repeat…

18 thoughts on “Cre-AY-tive

  1. Take me back, Professor Kennedy. I heard something like that at a community college 25 years ago. Of course, I almost got in trouble for mentioning Darwin, naturalism, and determinism in one swoop. Yep–that is going into a post: “Miz Hamrick, are you from New York?” BTW you can love my cat, too. I must update her appearance.

    • I learned over time that I simply scared them and made them jealous. It didn’t get better over the years. I had a colleague (whom I didn’t even really know!) verbally attack me for being artistic. She hated me because, somehow, I reminded her of her mother (whom I also never met). The woman was only 10 years younger than I, so I could not possibly have been her mother… People. Keep a safe distance and smile. 🙂

  2. What a shame for your so called colleagues to label you with preconceived prejudice. They were the losers.

    Like the other commenters here, I too enjoy your writing very much and think that you are quite talented. While I don’t always comment, I am still reading what you post.

    • Thank you — I wasn’t hurt by what they said, exactly, because it made no sense. Creativity is nothing more than the ability to see a problem in a different way or to do something different with existing materials. I’d want someone like that on my team, but they didn’t. They were scared and jealous and petty, and, as all my life, my abilities were valued by co-workers I was stunned. Thank you so much, though, for your kind words. I appreciate them a lot! 🙂

  3. I found out that a particular judge, his clerk and court officers, and the prosecutors in a district court all called me Big Bird behind my back. At the time I was quite slender, though I still clocked in over 6′. I later heard that they thought I was cheating somehow since I came up with legal arguments they had never heard before. There are simply people who cannot stand to see others succeed where they don’t. It is easier to knock someone down than to lift them up.

    Now that I’m writing in a writers workshop, what creativity I have is cheered on, although I just got talked to about making my plot for a new book too complicated. It is a completely different world.

    I haven’t posted pictures of my cats yet.. They’ve stolen my camera and I haven’t found it yet.

    • When I was taking the LSAT, I had a strange feeling that 1) I would pass and get into law school, the one in which I’d worked a couple years doing PR, 2) I would hate my life because I was working with lawyers as a paralegal, and while they made great and appreciative friends, if I were in the pen with them, I would be very unhappy just for those reasons. I admire that you did it! 🙂

  4. I have bumped into this at work … as did Garry and many others I know, including my mother. I have failed to get jobs because I was too creative (and co-workers were not) — or I was just too good at the work. It turns out striving for excellence is overrated. Mediocrity is the way to go. Especially when the boss is without talent.

  5. I think creativity means different things to different people. Some view creativity as being able to recreate something successfully again and again – like baking cakes. Others I think feel challenged by it, threatened by it – something unknown, not understood, different from the usual, the normal. A few see creativity as something strange, magical, wonderful, that opens eyes and minds, bringing pleasure and satisfaction. But even then the thing that turns them on will differ from person to person. So maybe creativity is something very personal, something precious just to ourself.

    • I think you’re right. My boss saw my creativity as the ability to look at a problem and find a new way to see it and maybe solve it. My colleagues saw it as a threat to their jobs. I see it as “Oh cool. I get to try a new thing.”

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