Creative Confessions Best Left Off Your Résumé
In a recent article I wrote on the wondrous new site named Creative Confessional, a place to anonymously post your deep, dark secret of unprofessional behavior done by creatives, from office sex, to stealing, to other hilarious and shameful things perpetrated by human beings. Of course, creatives have nothing on politicians and clergy. As happens, for the sake of my readership, I confessed a deep, dark secret only a few close friends and several dead ones know; as a young designer/illustrator… I worked for High Times magazine, the magazine of modern drug culture.
It seemed pretty tame at the time. I was young and the magazine dealt strictly with pot or the occasional article on magic mushrooms and sometimes the rumored existence of peyote in a natural form, Which no native American tribe had seen in over one hundred years. Hell, it was a job and I needed the money. I also did some freelance work for Forbes and when the art department of the New Yorker called to challenge the High Times stoner staff to a softball game, there was one resounding explanation we could think of; the town was dry of pot and the uppity magazine staff needed a new weed connection.
I shake my older and wiser head when I think of those days, coming in at ten in the morning, finishing our bagels and coffee before the art director or editor would ask, “who’s got a joint?”
When we started coming down, it was time for lunch and the obligatory high recharge thereafter. Usually there was the afternoon snack order of chili cheese fries, another joint and the end of the day release of two or three pages for the printer. Then, another joint or three. Yes, it worked like the U.S. congress but we had no prostitutes.
Upon occasion, some kid from nowheresville would arrive at the door to the office/opium den, excited to be in the “greatest magazine ever, man” and whip out a joint of “ditch weed” so he/she could have the “honor” of smoking with the staff and having a good story to tell while hanging out at the 7/11 parking lot on a Saturday night and being the king of the ne’er-do-well metalheads of the small town. Naturally, being used to the best weed, usually cheated from some hapless dealer because the staff of the magazine of drug culture had the worst pot etiquette of anyone I had ever met, a big spliff would be substituted for the visitor’s lame toothpick of joint and the office and entire floor would fill with the sweet, skunky smoke, which probably wasn’t a good effect on the CPA’s office that shared the same floor of the building.
On one visit, after a few puffs of a monster joint, some denim-clad kid turned blue and crumpled in the corner. We stood there, shocked at having killed a subscriber as the loss of even one would have financial ramifications on the entire magazine. I believe it was I who suggested we take his wallet and stash the body in the stairwell several floors down from the office but, luckily, the kid just wasn’t used to really good ganja and had only passed out. That’s when the rule of not smoking with visitors came into effect for at least three hours until everyone forgot about it.
I suppose the high point of my career with the magazine (no pun intended) was when the entire magazine had to move out of the building on the sly and each of us had to carry bits and pieces out in our backpacks and messenger bags, past the lobby guard who was on notice to watch for anything funny from the magazine and staff as I suppose someone owed a lot of back rent.
It wasn’t long thereafter that I had to decide if I wanted to work for alternative publications or have my career climb into legitimacy. I opted for money and not giving away more weed than I smoked myself. I removed the High Times samples from my portfolio, deleted it on my résumé, changed my phone number, moved and took a long, hard Silkwood shower.
There are things less embarrassing that one should leave off one’s résumé. Those of us with many years of experience are told to cut out our early experience as not to “age” ourselves, which would have me leaving art school and immediately starting as an art director for MAD Magazine (yet another questionable résumé entry). There are, however, some experiences we can delete without compromising the honesty of our résumés. Even my freelance client list omits the inclusion of a magazine group that published some of the worst mens’ magazines on the newsstands (that oddly enough, also published Playgirl magazine, which always made me nervous when I carried several copies that contained my design work in my messenger bag. If I got hit by a taxi and the police would go through my bag to see who I was they would find a dozen copies of a male nudie magazine).
One mistake that really irks my fragile psyche is when young creatives list experience that has nothing to do with design. Yes, we all start somewhere but listing positions as a cashier at the local convenience store or drive-thru window service person at a fast food place isn’t needed to fill in time between graduation and the present day. A simple entry of “freelance” is all that’s needed. With time, you will continue to add relevant experience but, in the end, it’s your portfolio of samples, whether published or just exercises, that will gain you professional trust and work. No art director will consider simple customer service as a positive skill for designing.
I guess one should never be ashamed of any experience that makes you grow as a creative or a person. I may have worked for a stoner magazine but all that did was drive people with the munchies to the very fast food places you worked at and weed never killed anyone and certainly not as many people as a double chili burger, fries and gigunda Coke has. We all have our skeletons and to quote Oscar Wilde, “every saint has a past and every sinner a future.”
The secret stories are great in retrospect but sometimes it’s best to share them only with your closest friends and leave them for your biography. Of course, it was Oscar Wilde who said, “biography lends to death a new terror.” I’d rather get out the facts now, as I remember them.