A Suburban Dad's Guest Blog: A Message for Parents of Creative Kids

by Rick Kaempfer
I loved the speech Kim linked to about "horizontal loyalty" (written by Robert Krulwich). It's about new ways of getting into the journalism business, but it really has a message that is broader than that, and to me, it's aimed at a specific kind of a kid. 
I know that kind of kid well. I used to be one, and I have given many speeches and talks to them. For lack of a better term, let's call them "creative kids."  I suspect Krulwich's speech really struck a chord with them, but I'm also betting it didn't strike a chord with their parents.
And I suspect I know why.
Parents of creative college-age kids are panicking right about now.
While the kids are picturing themselves accepting a Pulitzer Prize or an Academy Award, their parents are picturing them working in a Starbucks in a seedy part of Los Angeles sharing a rat-infested apartment with a drug dealer.
The creative fields have changed, and continue to change as Krulwitch noted, but the relationship between the creative kid and the parent of the creative kid hasn't changed much since the beginning of time.
Parents, understandably, just want their kids to find good jobs. It's only natural for them to discourage pursuits into fields that seem risky, and let's face it, all creative fields are considered risky. My dad and I had the biggest fights of our lives discussing this subject. Now that I'm a dad of a high schooler myself I understand where he was coming from, but I also thank God I didn't listen to him.
Instead of becoming an accountant, which is what he suggested, I went into radio. Dad saw it as a needlessly risky move for a smart kid, but the second I stepped into my first radio station I knew that I had finally found a place I belonged. That's where I met my fellow creatives; people with the same talents, interests, and weaknesses as me. People with whom I still, thirty years later, share a deep sense of "horizontal loyalty."
Creative kids really have no choice--they have to follow their talents. It's not only their best chance at happiness, it's also their best chance at a career. It's what they're wired to do. 
Parents always ask me: "But what about those astronomical odds of making it to the big time?" I remind them that the odds are about the same as making it to the big time in any field, and despite what you've heard, starving is not the only alternative to the big time. 
Creative kids are usually pretty smart. Your kid may not become a famous painter, but may become an art teacher or an art dealer or an art critic. He may not become a famous radio host or performer, but may become a producer or a writer (like me) or a promotions director. She may not become a famous actor, but may become a casting agent, or an acting coach, or a screenwriter, or a cinematographer, or a dozen other possibilities. 
Albert Einstein once said that the greatest gift of all was imagination, because it has no limits.
Don't worry, parents. Your creative child will find a place in this world. 
The possibilities are limitless.


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  • I am an adult who put my creativity to the side to get a job that paid a lot of money. I spent 10 years of my life job hopping and sitting in a cube with money in the bank, yet miserable in my heart! Yes, I want my children to have a great job, but what is the true definition of a "great job"? After being miserable in my career, I would rather see my children pursue their passion and be happy than rot in a field they hate.
    Creative people can make money, too! Making it big doesn't necessarily mean being on the cover of every magazine or on the big screen. It means being the best in your creative field and loving what you do! That is success. Great post!

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