I’ve always had a vivid imagination. This imagination led to me becoming something of a storyteller growing up. And by storyteller, I mean liar. It probably started by trying to get out of trouble; and because it worked (or at least delayed the inevitable), it led to more lying. About other things. About everything. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad kid. I just had truth issues. I think my mom resented my imagination because of where it took me.

This character flaw continued into early adulthood when I learned quickly enough that dishonesty didn’t sit well with the majority of society. Then something happened when I turned 27 that caused me to do a complete 180 in terms of how I dealt with, well, everything. I got honest with myself, and then everything else. One of the most important things I learned about honesty came from a former boss in Manhattan who told me, “Always tell the truth – there’s less to remember.” Ironically, he later served prison time for fraud. But his advice stuck with me and is now something like a personal mantra. It is easier to be honest. Even when it’s easy to lie.

I’ve recently read some things about the correlation between creativity and dishonesty. From this (confusing) Huffington Post article on the subject, to my friend Ben Kunz’s (expertly positioned) Google+ post, the idea of creativity and dishonesty is something I’ve always thought about. Especially considering my childhood – and the fact that I’m an advertising copywriter.

I remember telling my mother that I was going into advertising. Her response was something like, “That’s fitting.” We don’t have such a great reputation in advertising for telling the truth. Which is a damn shame. I mean, if you lie about something – you do more damage than good. It doesn’t work to lie. And even if it does in the short term, building a reputation as an agency or creative person who relies on lying as a creative tactic – yeah, that’s not going to last.

I’ve never lied about a client’s product or service – ever. I firmly believe that there’s a sellable truth in everything. The first trick is discovering the sellable truth. The second trick is articulating that truth so that people mobilize. And no, this isn’t easy (it’s way easier to lie). It requires the use of innovation. I rely on my imagination to help rearrange existing truths (facts) to solve problems that mobilize hearts, brains and money. And it’s not dishonest at all. Though I’ve definitely done it for dishonest people.

At the end of a recent fictional piece, I say, “I’m not going to lie.” I wrote this because it felt good coming out of the character’s mouth. Even though it directly blurs the line between truth and fiction. Look, we all lie. We lie when we think we’re in control of things. We lie when we convince ourselves that we’re creative. Lying is part of human existence. But there are different kinds of lies. There’s Bernie Madoff. And there’s Santa Claus.

So yeah, I’m a liar. But I’m not dishonest. And I use words and concepts in ways that make people think I’m creative.

Aspire to be creative in everything you do. Fuck dishonesty.

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Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, due in 2014.

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