Copy That: Finding Structure in the Stylebook

Monday, October 31, 2016 - 5:21pm

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Illustration by Emilie Farrugia

 

I’m not creative.

I’m just not. I know saying that seems like the ultimate admission of failure to some, especially considering my choice to pursue an English major, but after a lot of soul-searching and many failed attempts to write the next Great American Novel, I’ve come to the somewhat depressing realization that I am just not creative.

I have my creative moments, but the thought of sitting down to write something completely on my own talents and with no instructions seems terrifying. Even writing this took me weeks of planning and outlining and it still was not easy for me to create something unique of which I could be proud. I like rules, I adore guidelines and I function a heck of a lot better with a clear instruction manual. That’s why I love the working at the copy desk so much.

Not to say that everyone at the copy desk is like me, because in my time at The Michigan Daily I have learned that copy attracts creative and witty people with a fondness for Oreos and the Oxford comma. I simply happen to thrive in an environment where the rules are clearly laid out and I have a guide to follow. The Stylebook is probably the most comforting tab open on my computer, all 65 pages of it. I’m not creative, and working at the copy desk allows me to be a part of the creative process where otherwise us non-creative people would get shut out.

Coming to college, I was under the impression that every single intelligent person was also creative — they had only original thoughts, they never struggled to say something interesting and the quality of their work, no matter the discipline, always reflected their imaginative dispositions. I thought that I had to be someone who only ever added to the discussion with original insight. I thought that being creative was a sure-fire way to be successful at the University of Michigan and in careers beyond.

There wasn’t one specific moment when I realized I wasn’t creative and decided I was probably doomed to fail in any and all future endeavors. My creative energy just sort of deflated over time, and as I realized how utterly uncreative I was, I began to see and appreciate all the more the depth of creativity that exists in my peers. There are some wacky and wonderful things going on at this University, and my lack of creativity means I am often on the outside peering in.

The world needs people who are creative, but the world also needs people like me who love creativity but just can’t be a part of it. My work at the copy desk is probably going to be reflective of most of my adult career. I am not going to write the narrative, but I am going to be able to come alongside those who are creative and hone and shape their work into something that is even better. If that involves changing “amidst” to “amid” and Googling party affiliations of city council members for the rest of my life, that’s fine with me. I’m just happy to be included, lack of creativity and all.